I've flown over 100,000 miles/year for 23 of the last 25 years. I'm over a million miles on United and I'll probably get there on American. Obviously I've seen a lot in the course of those 3+ million miles. Perhaps it was the straw that broke the camel's back but American's announcement today that it's going to charge $15 for the first bag just sent me over the edge. Yes, I know as an American Platinum flyer, I'm not going to be subject to that fee. But I am going to be impacted by it. (See my next post.)
So, instead of stewing about it, I'm going to write about it. I'm going to document the good, the bad and, often, the very ugly of what I see and what I've seen. Through it all, I've learned a few lessons and I'll share those.
That said, I think the deterioration of the industry is so complete in the United States that perhaps those lessons are no longer valid. Just one example: my travel mantra used to be "treat people with God-like powers like, well, God." That gate agent or hotel check-in agent had/has incredible power. Upgraded room? Pow. Seat by the lavatory. Bang. So I'd approach these people with great bonhommie -- that's my general nature anyhow -- and somehow not surprisingly these people who take so much abuse on a regular basis responded with open relief and joy. I didn't always get an upgrade, mind you, but I at least got a smile. Now, however, the abuse is so widespread, the customer so disspirited, the employer so out-of-touch, that these attempts at goodwill are all too often falling on ears so deaf that they're unwilling or unable to notice the humanity. It's as if the efficiency expert told them it take 0.03 seconds to smile and that over the course of a year that'll cost you the ability to process two customers. It has gotten so bad that I have just about given up on my attempt to show goodwill and humor.
Is this really where we want to be?? In my professional life, I talk a lot about the move from a product to a service economy (and what technology can do to enable that). The travel and hospitality industry is moving in the exact opposite direction.
And so I'll write.