From introducing Twitter bots for checking flight status, to launching the luxurious Airbus A380, every innovation in airline industry seems like a tough act to follow and yet many wondrous visions wait in the line, just to be articulated at the right time. Airlines may offer all the conveniences in the world at 33,000 feet above the ground, but the only thing that makes customers stick with an airline is good service. An in-flight customer service is a mix of several tangible and intangible factors. It’s not just the physical objects but performances and experiences as well that count. So, there are two things that make in-flight experience worth every penny shelled out. One is the in-flight amenities and the other is how passengers are attended to during their airborne travel. From safety briefing, to serving drinks and food, first aid to final cabin check, flight attendants or cabin crew must be thoroughly trained to graciously handle customers’ requests.
There are several airlines that are highly lionized for their customer service, whereas some others just bite the dust. Nevertheless, the tough competition is driving every airline to provide superior services than the rest.
“The airline industry has never been tougher or more unforgiving, margins are paper-thin and airlines need to strive for continuous improvement by focusing on delivering consistently high levels of customer service that extend beyond in-flight service”, a proclamation very well put by Barry Judge, UAE Marketing Manager at Dubizzle.com, for every one of us has the tendency to take a shine to the lap of luxury.
Being subject to much radical advancement, there has been a lot going on lately in the Middle Eastern airline industry. With greatly improved profitability prospects, Middle Eastern airlines are also concentrating on the various aspects that can contribute to a great customer experience. According to a recent survey carried out across 76 global airlines on the basis of factors such as cabin comfort, in-flight service, customer service, value and food, Singapore Airlines grabbed the top position for being the best customer service oriented airline. Emirates slipped from number two to three with slightly demoted customer service and value scores. However it has still been able to stay abreast of other European and Asia-Pacific airlines with steady scores for customer service. Leaving behind JetBlue Airways, Qatar Airways has made a move among the top 10. Moreover, UAE airlines’ progressive trend is quite apparent in most of its rave reviews and a huge following on the social media front. Emirates topped 2012 chart for being an airline with the highest social media engagement. Conversely British Airways touched half a million Facebook fans but still the milestone was not enough to prevent it from slipping to second place. Looking at the bigger picture, Middle Eastern pattern of policy shift in the air transport industry seems to be firmly set in the right direction.
Having said that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any loopholes seen in the in-flight service, provided every now and then people also fall victim to the inconsistency of the service standards. Sometimes, things don’t always go as planned, but that would be just one in a million case. “On a 14 hour flight, flight attendant did not come to my seat with water even once”, rants an anonymous Emirates Airways passenger. Same could be said of the Western services where a story by Michelle Higgins of The New York Times revealed that American Airlines passengers are asked to actually pay fee if they need to have a “civilized airport experience.” Although the airline claims to improve customer experiences after bidding farewell to the Silver Bird, but still the idea of having to pay for a reasonable treatment is a bit too much for some. On another occasion Hollywood’s recognized celebrity, Alec Baldwin, did not take an airline’s bad customer service with a grain of salt when he was expelled from the plane for playing Words with Friends ‘at the wrong time’, instead he satirized airline’s uncivilized behavior in a spoof on famous show, Saturday Night Live.
Nevertheless, airlines worldwide are striving to improve on their service to provide a more personalized customer experience.
“Some airlines are heavily invested in making their passengers feel special at no additional charge. Emirates, the Dubai-based carrier that’s got a number of other airlines on the run but other airlines have the same idea; Singapore, Japan Airlines, Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa are all known for adopting a strategy that treating customers right is just good business”, says Christine Negroni Award winning writer and author.
British Airways are creating dossiers on customers allowing the flight crew to apologize to the passengers for committing any mistakes and be able to improve the level of their service. American Airlines is making the in-flight customer experience even more thrilling by deploying Android slates for watching TV programs and movies. This is not the first time tablets have been employed for in-flight entertainment, aircraft pilots and cabin crew members use tablets all the time to aid with everything from taking off to carrying out passenger checks, while Etihad Airways recently confirmed to use the iPad to train aircraft engineers.
Moreover, investing capital on training polite, courteous, people-pleasing in-flight customer service employees not only returns to the bottom line but it also goes a long way towards creating a civilized experience that everyone can enjoy and cherish. “Traveling can be such a bummer nowadays that people need a friendly voice”, Carolyn Hopkins Voice of 200 Airports & NYC Subway speaks to CBS News. That’s why Air New Zealand makes use of star power to entice their customer’s attention. With the cameo appearances of famous names like Richard Simmons and Snoop Dogg, who give customers a rundown of rules and regulations, the airline is able to earn bonus points for their service while getting their point across. On another occasion, JetBlue’s founder and CEO David Neeleman, adopting a unique approach to customer service, impressed the world by paying surprise visits to the passengers in order to meet each of them personally and know how they could be served better.
In this neck and neck competition of winning a loyal customer base, the airline industry needs to realize the fact that customers need more than just a carrier. Attending to customer needs is not an option rather it’s a part of their duty – infact the most vital part of it.
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