Friday, December 25, 2009

Americans Are The Reason U.S. Airlines Suck

Sherman Oaks, California

I swore off blogging for the holidays, but an article in today's New York Times combines two of my favorite topics: air travel, and how Americans have only themselves to blame for their country's failings.

Bettina Wassener reports on how Asian airlines, hurt by the same problems as the rest of the travel industry, have responded by raising their game. The flagship Asian carriers are making their flights more comfortable, adding passenger luxuries and maintaining the highest levels of service -- and it's all included in the ticket price.

Meanwhile, US Airways is charging $7 for a pillow, and United wants $75 to change your flight by one hour, and no one would confuse the service on United with that of the Peninsula Hotel.

Wassener's dispatch places blame where it belongs:

“Asian airlines have been very reluctant to start going down the track that the Americans have gone,” said Peter Harbison, chairman of the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, a consulting firm based in Sydney.

Alex McGowan, product manager at Cathay, said: “When the financial crisis overwhelmed the industry a year ago, we took a decision that maintaining that premium service was vital to our future. So whatever cutbacks we made, we did not make any to the areas our customers value.”
"The areas our customers value."

Sure, Americans complain about the extra fees to check baggage and the pathetic in-flight food, but Americans refuse to actually do anything about it. Americans won't stop flying on awful econo-carriers like Spirit, and they won't take any kind of collective political action against the protected domestic airline cartel, but the biggest reason U.S. carriers are mediocre is because Americans insist on buying cheap tickets online without regard to the quality of the service.

The vast majority of Americans will not pay $100 more per ticket for a higher quality experience. The American carriers know this, which is why you rarely see them competing on the quality of the service in the economy cabin. The carriers know most Americans will unthinkingly buy the cheapest fare that pops up on Expedia, so the airlines make sure they're at the top of the search results.

We refuse to pay for quality. That's why an hour-long flight on Vietnam Airlines is a far more pleasant experience than the Delta Shuttle. That's why twelve hours to Asia on Northwest is torture but, on ANA, it's rather pleasant.

We get what we're willing to pay for, on land and in the air.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Hater said...

Here here. It's the same reason that the restaurants suck in Singapore. People are happy to eat slop as long as it's cheap.

8:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't flown on a domestic carrier in 3 years. Yes, we can indeed refuse.

5:01 AM  

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