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Do Major Airlines Prioritize the Customer Experience?

Businesses across industries have focused their attention on creating a positive customer experience. It’s a highly effective way to build brand loyalty that many companies recognize. But there is one industry that seems to be in the dark on this: the airline industry.

Instead of prioritizing the customer experience, the major airlines seem to be focused solely on profit. And this comes at the expense of their customers. In the news, on YouTube, or on any travel review websites, there are countless stories of discomfort, poor service, and downright unethical behavior by major airline companies such as United, Delta, and American Airlines.

Late flights, missed connections, and cramped seats with very little leg room are just a few of the complaints that passengers have these days. But it wasn’t always this way. Back in the 1980s and up to the start of the 21st century, airline travel was an “experience” that most people enjoyed. Today, however, it feels more like catching a cab on a hectic New York street than it does an experience to be savored and enjoyed.

And this leaves many loyal customers asking why.

Where the Airline Industry Went Wrong

During the golden age of commercial air travel, in the 1960s and 1970s, flying was akin to being at a cocktail party on wings when everyone dressed for the occasion. (GLOBE FILE PHOTO 1968)

Do you remember a time when you didn’t have to pay extra for niceties like a meal or blanket on your flight? You didn’t have to pay to bring a carry-on, and there was some room to stretch your legs? If you are too young to remember this, then just know that the major airlines used to treat their customers well. And in the process, they built up a very loyal customer base.

However, things began to change after September 11, 2001. The airline industry took a huge hit after the terrorist attacks that rocked the nation that year. As part of their efforts to recover, the major carriers began to look for ways to cut costs and maintain profitability.

This is an understandable goal. But one of the ways the industry went about this has essentially ruined the customer experience. It’s called passenger outsourcing.

What is Passenger Outsourcing?

If you are not familiar with passenger outsourcing, it is when airlines such as United and Delta subcontract with smaller, regional airlines to transport their customers. For the customer, it’s basically a bait and switch. You buy a ticket from a major carrier and pay the ticket price to be transported on one of their planes, but you end up on a smaller, less comfortable plane.

This smaller airplane is often masked as one of their planes. For example, if you purchase a ticket on a United, Delta, or American flight, you may end up on a United Express, American Eagle, or Delta Connection. These are not actually planes belonging to the major carriers. They are second-rate subcontracted airlines – and the big airlines usually go with the cheapest bidder.

The airplanes are small, and the airline employees are often not as friendly or trained in customer service. Why would they be? For these companies to offer the lowest bids to the major airlines, they have to keep their own costs low. Investing in proper customer service training is not on their priority list, and it doesn’t seem to be a priority of the major airlines anymore either.

The Pitfalls of Regional Airlines

Regional airlines frequently provide poor customer service, and they are often late. Passengers who are outsourced to these planes have longer waits and sometimes even miss their connecting flights. A FlightStats analysis of these regional planes shows that North American regional carriers have averaged between 64 and 70 minutes late so far in 2019.

Some of these carriers, such as Silver Airways – which subcontracts with United Airlines – and Sky Regional – which subcontracts with Air Canada – have had records of over 44 percent delays. In May 2019, both Silver Airways and Sky Regional averaged 76 minutes late for their flights.

Sadly, when customers book their airline travel, most of them do not realize that they are going to be outsourced to these smaller carriers. If they have connecting flights and do not account for these delays (because they don’t realize that they should), they often end up missing their next flights. It is a frustrating and unnecessary situation.

Bringing the Customer Experience Back to the Major Airlines

The Center for the Prevention of Passenger Outsourcing (CPPO) is on a mission to bring back the positive customer experience to these major airlines. They are an advocacy group for airline customers intent on halting the use of passenger outsourcing.

Bait and switch is wrong, and paying airline customers deserve to get what they pay for. It’s time for airlines like United, American, and Delta to prioritize their customers and end this deception.

CPPO was founded by loyal airline customers who flew for many years on these major airlines, earned premium status, and remember a time when they did value their customers. Many people today do not realize what these companies are doing and want to bring public awareness to passenger outsourcing.

It goes against the spirit of brand loyalty, and airline patrons deserve better treatment. The best way to get these airlines’ attention on this issue is as a united front. Together, we can make a positive change for the better. With the power of numbers, we can show the airlines that we are serious about this change.

Passenger outsourcing is unethical.

Companies everywhere have come to realize that in order to build brand loyalty, you need to create a positive experience for your customers. They must be able to trust you. It is time for the major airlines to get on board with this. The bait and switch that they are doing to their loyal customers is unethical, and it needs to stop.

Join CPPO today and become part of the movement to bring awareness to these airlines. Visit the CPPO website to learn more about passenger outsourcing, share your own story of outsourcing, and help get the word out about this growing practice by major airlines. Together, we can make a difference!

Written by Eric

37-year-old who enjoys ferret racing, binge-watching boxed sets and praying. He is exciting and entertaining, but can also be very boring and a bit grumpy.

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