While code sharing is a model that should benefit customers greatly, the reality is still far from the promise. As a result, customers who benefit from one aspect of the customer experience – pricing advantages – suffer along the remainder of the customer journey.
- OneWorld offers “interline ticketing between member airlines, which means you enjoy smooth transfers and greater flexibility across the entire network, and offers the widest range of alliance fares, making it easier to travel throughout its global network.”
- Purchasing tickets – Buying tickets is quite easy as advertised. If you are lucky you can still find inefficiencies (i.e. price savings) in their system whereby the same flights on the same aircraft can be purchased for hundreds of dollars less from one airline in the alliance instead of another OneWorld airline. (Each of the people sitting next to me on a recent trans-Atlantic flight saved over $500.)
- Customer ownership – My AA flight was actually operated by BA for 3 legs and Finnair on the fourth leg. Automated check-in for the return flight was impossible online and at the self-help kiosks because the system didn’t recognize that it needed to stitch together 2 carriers. And the airline representatives were unhelpful and churlish. The BA representative referred me to the Finnair representative (literally 2 seats away) and the Finnair representative was extremely put out to have to assist in providing a boarding pass.
- Gate confusion – After arriving at the gate you’re apt to find three, four and five different flight numbers and carriers scrolling on the display. The fact that 5 flight numbers are actually one plane places unnecessary strain on customers, gate attendants, and customer service representatives.
- Flying – Happily, the flights arrived more or less on time and without incident. Compared to the alternative, perhaps I should be grateful OneWorld was able to deliver me in OnePiece.
In keeping with my theme of combining two words to make up a new word, I wish I could propose OneSolution. In lieu of that, here are some obvious “fixes” for the current situation:
- Establish a OneWorld customer service phone line with representatives who are able to work across organizational and company boundaries to represent the interests of their customers.
- Stop trying to brand each flight as if it is operated by a single airline. No one is fooled by this chicanery – one need only observe differences in waiting areas, flight attendant attire, seat back magazine, choice of snacks for fee/free, etc. The only illusion of a single brand is when a purchaser buys the tickets from a single airline and this step alone is unlikely to improve loyalty.
- The OneWorld alliance should earn its own loyalty by stitching together as many of its partner airline’s flights to create a cost-effective offering. Doing this effectively would put OneWorld in a favorable position relative to competitors like Skyteam Alliance and Star Alliance. Co-branding planes and flights as OneWorld and the owning airline (e.g. BA, AA, or Finnair) might be just the solution.
The end result is that the promise just isn’t kept. OneWorld has focused solely on one aspect of the customer journey – purchasing. The pivot point is that until OneWorld integrates the entire customer experience customers will be plagued by 15 systems and OneHeadache.