As I was in the airport today waiting for my flight, I was next to a gate for Southwest. For those that don”t know, Southwest doesn”t issue reserved seats like most airlines. Instead, ticket-holders are issued one of three boarding groups, each of which lines up before the flight. It”s very similar to general admission seating at concerts.
And as I was waiting for my flight, I watched maybe 200 people standing in line, each hoping to above being sandwiched between two 6″7″ fat guys and behind a screaming kid.
I was on a Southwest flight yesterday…and I was one of those people. And it sucked…
Today, I was flying US Airways. I got to the gate, which had about three agents, each of which were trying to get the people to their flights via several automated check-in systems. Not a great process for those who don”t like automation, but it worked great for me.
Got to the gate and noticed the same agents who were working the ticket booth were also working that area. I knew US Airways was in bad financial shape, but found this interesting.
How can an airline like Southwest be making hand-over-fist money while almost every other airline is going broke? Ticket holders line up like cattle waiting to be slaughtered, the leg room is non-existent, and you”re lucky if you get peanuts as your in-flight meal.
Even the full-service, “here”s a hot towel, sir” guys can”t compete. Why?
You could argue that people are cheap and want to save money, but there is something more than that. I”d argue that it”s because Southwest does a good value of managing customer expectations.
When you fly Southwest, you know you”re going to have to line up like cattle, you know the flight crew will crack jokes, and you know you”re going to be short on legroom. And when you know, you can deal with those things.
US Airways though, while there was no problem for me today, tries to position itself as a more “classy” operation. And people expect more. So when flights are delayed or some other problem comes along, people get pissed.
This is something to think about when dealing with club owners, fans, and anybody else you come in contact with. People are fine with delays on the new album, a rhythm section that can”t keep time, and just about anything you can dish at them, but you have to let them know what to expect.