A recent Forbes article about United Airlines’ customer-friendly actions freed my inner skeptic. (Truth be told, it’s never been imprisoned.)
Under the category of “much ado about nothing” United decided that their approach to customers was far from appealing. “When we hear from customers about where we can improve, getting rid of this fee is often the top request,” said United’s CEO. Enlightened now and armed with such knowledge they are planning to eliminate a change fee for domestic travel.
Far from an epiphany about improving customer experiences, this customer-first move is actually brought to us courtesy of our friends “supply” and “demand.” I welcome the change of course, but notice that other carriers are quickly following to make similar changes. United is taking these steps because demand is low. When demand was high, that is, before the pandemic, most airlines were content to bleed customers dry with nary a care about the customer experience.
My inner skeptic says that when demand increases we should expect airlines to reverse this “permanent” change and move once again to reintroduce policies and fees that confuse and abuse consumers.
As United is finding, dropping the fee is easily matched by their competitors. Better to compete on actual customer experience improvements (besides price) which engender and maintain loyalty.
The pivot point (I guess) is to take the (temporary) relief where (and when) we can get it. If the only positive thing we can say about Covid is that it forces airlines to consider their customers, I suppose that beats the alternative. Bottom line, using the title from a Shania Twain song, that don’t impress me much.