Once upon a time, commercial flying was thought to be prestigious, adventurous, and fun. Few people would describe it that way today. In the “old days” passengers dressed in their best clothing and enjoyed the pampering of courteous, uniformed “stewardesses” (virtually all were women and most were hired for their attractiveness). All passengers enjoyed complimentary beverages and meals and other amenities such as decks of playing cards, pillows, blankets, and activity books, and crayons and toy pilot’s wings for children.
Bit by bit, the industry’s landscape changed and the passenger perks disappeared. With rising costs, increased competition, and extensive security requirements, air travel has become a far less pleasant experience. Flying coach is now likened to steerage in the sailing vessels of old. Discrepancies between first class and coach amenities have reinforced for many the strict notion of social class. One airline recently floated the idea of a flight class with no seats! Passengers would stand like subway strap hangers. One recent columnist complains that “the airlines have raised group humiliation into an art form.”
Chat with anyone at an airport about service changes and you’ll get an earful. Many of these changes are not the fault of the airlines, but they get the blame. Whatever happened to “the friendly skies”?
1. What changes have you seen as an airline passenger? Which of these are most annoying? Which seem to improve service?
2. What could airline leaders do to offset the negative impression so many people have of the industry? Site three initiatives that could be taken now that may be the most fruitful?
3. What do you see as the long-term impact of diminished service quality on the industry?