Our user-powered environments have granted us more access and power to choose– from having fresh produce delivered at our doorstep within hours, to $3 rideshare, to watching the trending TV show or movie by paying $10 a month – but this power and ease has yet to exist in the air industry.
There have certainly been some attempts to disrupt the market to provide straightforward and fair service, but with current regulations it is quite impossible to allow these companies to grow and thrive.
Since the United debacle and that of many incidents tweeted and live-streamed by customers who have been mistreated during their air travels I’ve started to wonder why there hasn’t been a major and successful disruptor to the airline industry. Juan Pablo Vasquez Sampere in this HBR article accurately posits that airline regulations have caused the industry to go stagnant, Customers are receiving the same or worse service as they did decades ago. Mere company survival is considered success.
Furthermore, since 9/11, the FAA changed the air travel experience for all Americans when TSA came on board to provide security and order at the expense of racial profiling, invasion of privacy, and all in a very brusque and authoritatian manner. Combined with airliners shrinking seats, new found opportunities to charge for basic amenities, and an industry culture of needing and demanding total control over the customer experience as seen by counter and flight crews. I fly for work often and my approach is to be as self-reliant as possible, seek all the answers to my questions online or on my AA app and avoid interacting with flight attendants and TSA agents beyond the process of passing security and boarding.
Users have always been privy to this and have documented their experiences via social media, this time around with Oscar Munoz’s, United’s CEO, revised apology and United’s recent change to prohibit flight crew from removing passengers from flights to accommodate their travel is a small start to a shift customer service practices.
What will the next tragic event live cast on social media prompt? At what point will airlines and other corporations work the prevention angle, rather than wait for something to go viral (and lose billions) in order to change.