Posted by: David Kiley on March 2, 2005
I have a new reason why almost no one in the airline industry has the right to hold the title, director of marketing. As I understand the concept of “marketing,” it doesn’t exist in this industry.
Here’s my latest: I book a flight to France for this May. I pay a decent, but not fabulous fare to fly Continental Airlines, which by the way is touting its international service these days. I decide a week ago that I’d like to spend an extra day. I call to see about it, expecting I may have to pay the annoying $75 change fee. Nope. $200.00!! Two hundred bucks for a lady in a call-center to hit a few keystrokes to move me from Thursday to Wednesday, involving two flights, each with plenty of seats, two months away. I passed on changing my flight. And so here I sit, totally torqued off at this airline.
By comparison, I just returned a shirt to Men’s Wearhouse I bought almost two months ago. It was too big, and I’ve been lazy about returning it. They exchanged it—no questions asked. Which company do you think gets my repeat business? I’ll eat dirt before I book another flight on Continental. Men’s Wearhouse will see me next week, and several times more this year, and next year, and the year after.
Airlines remain the screwiest business on the planet. No wonder most are losing big money, except for Southwest and JetBlue, which actually understand a few concepts about marketing, which encompasses customer service. Continental's load numbers have been improving, I read, though EPS foercast for this year is about (2.99), according to Yahoo Finance.
I'm sure there is some whacked reason why Continental feels it should charge $200.00 for a small change in the service I booked. But I don't care what it is. What I really don't understand is how it could be rated first in customer satisfaction for long flights by Frequent Flyer magazine & JD Power and Associates. It makes me wonder about the validity of the surveys. I covered one of Power's surveys in the auto industry in 2004 in which it ranked Hummer nearly last, and then I found out the brand lost a bunch of points based on complaints about bad fuel economy of the vehicular beasts. Duh. You were expecting Prius-type economy?
CEO Gordon Bethune even has a book out, "From Worst To First," based on these surveys.
I actually understand, to some degree, discouraging changes in itineraries on promotional fares inside of a week, maybe two weeks. Homeland Security and all that...yada, yada, yada. But this trip is two months away! What really stinks, of course, is that the six major airlines move in lock-step on all of this anti-consumer stuff like a bunch of pathetic apes caged in a zoo.
Oh...by the way. Here's another gem I couldn't even make up. As I was looking at reservation, the direct flight to France was about $200 cheaper than a flight originating in New York, which then went to Houston, lays over for about ten hours, and then proceeds to Paris. Who are the geniuses who work out such fares and schedules?
What would happen, I wonder, to one of the majors' bottom lines if one began acting like consumer businesses and less like a dictator.
May I make a suggestion. Find out who the head of marketing is at Men's Wearhouse and hire them to run the marketing at Continental. Then, maybe I'll have a reason to book it again.