The service gap in the airline industry

By Jeff Bowman

Having lived in Canada all my life, and rarely travelling outside of North America, I have become accustomed to the service levels  offered by Air Canada. When there were two and sometimes three airlines in Canada, competition made the airlines fight for your travel dollar.  Gradually, we have seen the demise of both service and value as virtually one national airline is left standing. Apologies to West Jet and Porter, who are trying to make a difference.

It started with the removal of free onboard alcoholic beverages, continued on to the replacement of meals with light snacks, and then  a “pay for food and drink” service.  The earphones cost money if you want to see a movie, and the price of tickets and assorted surcharges seemed to escalate, making travel within our country expensive.

I recently returned from the U.K. and was absolutely delighted by the service on  British Airways. They offered free beverages including wine, a very good chicken and rice entrée with dessert and refreshment service and more wine with the meal. The headphones were free and there was an added bonus of a free travel toothbrush, socks, earplugs and an eye cover to assist in sleeping was included at every seat.

Why is it that one airline still remains profitable while offering good added value, and the other threatens more staff cuts and service reductions? Is it bad management, hidden taxes levied at various government levels, poor marketing and promotion, the economy or a combination of all these and others?

It is a great case study for new business owners to examine. What makes one company prosper over another?  If your competition is a much larger company do you chase them and attack or withdraw and do nothing.  If you have ever seen a small bird chasing and attacking a larger crow in the summer skies for invading their space, you can see the David and Goliath effect in action.

Study the competition and find your competitive advantage, then build on that strength. When your competitor’s value proposition lacks something, add it to yours. If they don’t service one sector of the market well, make it your specialty. The game isn’t won by reducing what you offer to consumers.  I think this will be very clear to our national airline following Virgin America’s appearance at Pearson Airport last week.

Based on my experience, there is a large gap in service and value that leaves a door open. I suggest we all look at our businesses in the wake of the recession and then determine where our service is lacking, before our competition does their homework.

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1 Comment

Filed under Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Marketing

One response to “The service gap in the airline industry

  1. Anita

    Its not just Air Canada, but all the North American Airlines, eg. Continental, American Airlines.
    Bad service, Bad attiude, no addons, very high prices & baggage fee. Wonder how they are still in business. I flew Air Canada just once, & will never fly with them again.
    My fav. has always been Emirate Airlines, not just for the free booze & handsome attendents, but their servie is exceptional. Try EK, you’ll never want to fly another airline again.

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