During the past five months, I have written article after article for The Gate documenting changes which airlines have been implementing in the products and services they offer — as well as the costs of those products and services, the policies of their frequent flier loyalty programs, and airport lounge memberships.
The unbridled, frank and blunt responses posted by FlyerTalk members in reaction to the changes — many of whom perceived the majority of these changes as devaluations considered unfriendly to the customer and especially the frequent flier — have also been documented.
Airlines are businesses, and businesses must profit however they can and by any means necessary in order to survive — right?
While doing some research for an article for The Gate, I stumbled across a short article I wrote back on July 9, 2008 called An Open Letter to All Airline Customers.
The letter — which basically asked for your assistance to restore and enforce regulations and limits to “control excessive, largely unchecked market speculation and manipulation” pertaining to oil contracts which supposedly fueled a rise in oil prices per barrel — was signed by the chief executive officers of 12 domestic airlines based in the United States at that time. You were to have contacted the members of Congress who represented you, letting them know that you are joining other Americans and the airlines in a unified front to pull together as a nation “to reform the oil markets and solve this growing problem.”
So — did you do that?!?
FlyerTalk members were divided on that letter — ranging from those who were willing to jump in head first and help the airlines, to others who would not join in on the effort for a variety of reasons. It is not important to go into detail about the debate here, as it is detailed in this FlyerTalk discussion.
It is interesting to note that the commercial aviation industry was still suffering financially in 2008 before the advent of ancillary fees, as FlyerTalk member lancebanyon posted, “The fact that the CEOs of so many major airlines don’t understand the economics involved in oil pricing is just plain scary. It is no wonder they can’t turn consistent profits.”
How times have changed — or, at least, are changing.
Do you agree with the statement posted by FlyerTalk member StayingHomeIsBetter that “Perhaps the airlines can now understand what it is like being a consumer”?
I do wonder this: in light of all of the recent “enhancements” being planned or implemented by commercial airlines based both within and outside of the United States, what would be your initial reaction if the chief executive officers joined together once again to ask for your help? Would you do it?
More importantly, I remember when some FlyerTalk members would pledge to support their favorite airlines without hesitation during the lean years. Of course, airlines offered plenty of incentives for their customers to be loyal. Some would argue that the airlines “gave away the store.” Regardless, frequent fliers enjoyed the benefits, perks and amenities at that time — as well as the “mileage runs” — before they were “enhanced” to what they are today where:
- You need to redeem more frequent flier loyalty program miles for an award ticket — sometimes without advanced notice
- Qualifying for elite status is increasingly difficult
- A perception of having premium alcoholic beverages replaced by their lower-grade counterparts in airport lounges despite an increase in membership fees
- Ancillary fees seem to keep adding up — including the increase in existing fees
- Upgrades have become more scarce for a variety of reasons
…and those are just some of the “enhancements” which occurred this year alone.
Things usually happen in cycles. What if the commercial aviation industry suffered another economic downturn and needed your support? Would you gladly support your favorite airline — or would you remember the days when it seemed that stakeholder profits blatantly outweighed the wants and needs of customers such as you, even if justifiably so?
What are your thoughts?