I’ll take the airlines. But please hold the advertising.

Face it, big airlines.  You suck.  You suck because you can’t keep your promises. You suck because you’re delivering the same or less service than you were a year ago, and charging way more for it. You suck because you can’t even throw in the lousy meals anymore. You suck because your advertising is a big fat lie.

Please American, Continental/United, Delta, and yes, even you JetBlue.  Please do us all a favor.  Stop spending tens of, no make that hundreds of millions of dollars on all that advertising only to fail us at the ticket counter, and at the gate, and in the sky and when we get our credit card statements.

Truth is, you don’t have exceptional service.  You don’t have the lowest fares.  You don’t have the best routes.  You don’t have the most flights.  You’re not really that convenient after all.

Come to think of it, it’s really funny how just about ALL your advertising focuses on those key benefits, when almost none of you can deliver on these basic promises.

Instead, let’s focus on the basic truths:  across the board, your service is on the scale somewhere between below-grade and adequate.  I don’t discount that there may be an exceptional and caring employee flying the skies on any given A320, but by and large, your staff is just going through the motions.

Your fares are out of whack, and on no discernible pattern. I recently researched a flight from New York/Newark to San Diego on Continental.  (I looked up to THREE months out.)  $1,064.  REALLY?  A thousand bucks?  I could practically get chauffered out there on that dime.  And, hey, JetBlue, those “discount” fares of yours are all but a distant memory now, huh?  When I compared, you were only about $200 cheaper.  Honestly?

And can I ever get on a flight that isn’t “oversold?”

What’s astonishing to me is that the basic laws of marketing, branding and social media all state that airlines should essentially wither on the vine and die, and lose share to the competitor that meets customer needs, and to a market that demands choice.  And yet, these behemoths survive.  Promises are being broken, word of mouth is almost entirely negative, (when was the last time you heard about an “exceptional” flying experience from a co-worker?) prices are going up, and now you’re getting charged for checked baggage and crazy needs like “legroom,” and big airlines seem to almost universally be having banner years.  Where is the competitor who “gets it?” Where is the market demanding choice?

So again, I state my initial request.  Please re-allocate your budgets.  Hold the advertising.  Take the 8- and 9-figure advertising budgets, and instead, just lower rates.  Just STOP with the checked bag fees.  And please stop making me sit in the middle of row 26 when I book a flight a month in advance.

3 thoughts on “I’ll take the airlines. But please hold the advertising.

  1. Mark Kolier January 14, 2011 / 10:05 pm

    Nice rant Nader. The fact is air travel has been romanticized by many who long for the class of service airlines used to deliver if even only occasionally. Planes are nothing more than flying buses. When you board a bus you have pretty low expectations that it will only be a way for you to get from point A to point B. And with the airlines being in cahoots with one another (have you ever seen a more obvious example of a colluding industry?), nothing will change.

    Airlines are also famous for creating words and phrases that do not really exist like

    ‘Deplaning’ (Herve Villichaize where are you?)
    ‘Water Landing’ (before Sully Sullenberger planes did not land in the water – they crashed’
    And the aforementioned ‘Overbooking’

    Sigh. Remember the campaign ‘I hate Quantas’? I never thought about it that way.

    By the way if an airline are compelled to spend $ 8 million dollars in advertising I would answer the phone. Sorry but maybe they would listen to us. At least we would try.


  2. Nader Ashway May 3, 2011 / 1:10 pm

    Thanks for the “air-jargon” examples. Last week, on a flight with Spirit Air, I heard the term “de-illuminating” in reference to the Fasten Seat Belt sign.
    That’s classic air industry terminology.


  3. Kirk Downing March 25, 2014 / 1:27 pm

    Slam Dunk! Reading this assured me I wasn’t crazy, or the only human who feels the Airlines pay no attention to their customers. The low fare carriers you didn’t mention (probably because they aren’t worth mentioning) fail in droves because they multiply this awful customer disservice, which probably makes the horrendous experiences on major carriers appear “not so bad” after all.

    While I vowed to avoid these “fly-by-night” carriers AT ALL COSTS, I recently broke my own rule and flew Spirit, but it took a family member having a stroke and the need for an immediate flight for me to live so dangerously. As I awaited my Spirit Air flight in MCO’s “Greyhound Terminal”, as I like to call it, I watched as industry newcomer Silver Airways announced to a room of angry passengers that their flight to Tallahassee had been cancelled, and tomorrow’s flight was sold out, so their next opportunity to fly would be Sunday (3 days out). They then offered hotel vouchers to a crowd nearing riot.

    You touched on making travelers happy, even if it means sending them to other airlines. In this case, you have roughly 70 passengers who will never again fly Silver Airways, even if their complimentary hotel has sheets with the world’s highest thread count. I’m not sure who needs to be fired (other than everyone), but wouldn’t it be worth saving a potential customer for life by purchasing a ticket for them on another airline?

    Striking chords again, you are…


Please share your thoughts! It's important.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s