What’s wrong with budget airlines today?
(Or how they can create greater value by focusing on experience rather than price.)
We have much to thank budget airlines for. Making travel affordable is top of the list.
Yet even if a carrier is budget, the experience it offers customers doesn’t have to be.
A few days ago I booked a ticket on one of Asia’s leading low cost carriers. The experience was frustrating, though I felt, needlessly so. If the airline had simply kept its ear to the ground, as it did its wheels during landing, it could have vastly improved its experience and in the process loyalty and position.
The first issue I pick up with budget airlines - transparency
Why tell the public a ticket costs $100 when it clearly doesn’t after you add taxes, surcharges, service fees and the lot? The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife (to quote famous ad man); sometimes even worse - a writer for an influential online business mag:)
Why also, pre-populate fields with extras like $30 to choose your seat or an extra $15 for baggage? If you’re an airline it makes you seem like you’re trying to con your customers even if you’re not. A much better option - simply provide an option menu to passengers and get them to tick the ones they want upfront. It’s straightforward, transparent and likely to ensure you’re seen as much more trustworthy.
Does anybody care - even pretend to?
I’m not so sure. Budget airlines (pretty much universally) seem intent on making the booking process a chore. To ensure they succeed they frustrate with the littlest of things. Like not giving customers the option of typing a destination and have it come up automatically to save time. They insist on using an outdated technology that has them scrolling through every one of their 60 destinations to click on the one a customer is flying to. Frustration mounts, so needlessly, I think to myself.
Mind your language
When a customer spend 5 minutes registering their details only to be rejected by the server, it’s only fair for them to be told the reason why.
In English. Or the language of their choice - which tech speak rarely is.
Chaps, avoid pop up messages like “exception: null or transient error.” They make no sense to customers, and one would be surprised if they did even to your staff.
Know where you’re going (or at least where your customers are)
I ask at the booking counter how long the flying time is to Phuket. I’m greeted with a stare as blank as a unused canvas. I ask if there is a departure tax payable at Phuket airport when a visitor leaves. The eyes widen, but that’s all that does. I am left to my own devices (my iphone and iPad) to better understand what I am up for once I reach my destination.
Sounds like a public airing of grievances?
In a way it is. In a way it’s also a free audit of service that if budget airlines were to consider, could help them significantly improve service. And have customers flying them not for the price they offer but for the experience.
Patrick D’Souza, CEO, The Planning Agency