Monday, April 21, 2008

Where Are These Airlines We See In The Advertising?

Smiling Faces? Roomy Seats? Great Food? New Planes? Friendly Service?

Last week, I was watching CNBC first thing in the morning and the big news was the upcoming merger between Delta and Northwest, forming the largest airline in the United States. There, on the screen, were the two CEO's of the two airlines co-touting how good this would be for everyone - shareholders, employees, consumers, and the airline industry. Any downside? Nope, according to these two men whose personal bank accounts will greatly benefit from the transaction. Surprising marriage? Seems like the current CEO was formerly the CEO of Northwest.

But let's get to the bigger issue.

The major airlines in the U.S. suck. Customer service staff are surly. The majority of planes in the fleet are dirty and old - the latter issue requiring hundreds of planes to be grounded leaving tens of thousands travelers stranded. Travel delays are systemic as is the problem with lost bags. Interior seating, save business and first class, is less comfortable than a Greyhound bus. If that is not enough, consumers get nickeled and dimed for everything and anything including pillows, headphones, extra luggage charges, change fees, etc. etc. New ticketing kiosks have reduced the number of warm bodies to take care of problems when things don't go according to schedule - which, by the way, is all the time.

Now we hear that two airlines who rank in the bottom tier of all categories will be better when they merge. It's like saying "I have these two stones that don't float, but if we glue them together - Voila! they float."

Allow me to address the title of this article. Who are these airlines in the advertising? Where are these well-groomed, friendly helpful employees? Where are the new, clean, roomy planes? Where is that great food I see those actors in the ads being served? Do the airline executives who sign off on these ads ever say "We can't run these ads. It's false advertising. We need to show frustrated travelers in cramped seats waiting for the 8AM flight to depart at 9AM. Those arrival and departure screens in the ads should not say "On Time" listed for every flight. They should say "Delayed" or "Cancelled"."?

My advice to the CEO and other airline executives - fly coach!