Extraordinary Experience #4: The lost luxury of air travel

Customers twist brands into commodities: So, is it our fault we get a tiny bag of peanuts on a typical flight from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City? Can we do anything about it? Yes, I believe so.

The idea is simp
le. We, as consumers, seek the best price for the best outcome in anything for which we depart dollars. We seek out emotionally rewarding experiences and rational reasons to justify our decisions to spend. We push brands off a cliff into the chasm of commodities. But, some would argue, the brand owners allow it to happen by allowing price to drive our decisions. By not giving us distinctive, rewarding experiences where we can hang our hat of loyalty. Airlines have done this with more prevalence than most categories. But, check your baggage here, this isn't a typical complaint but rather a suggestion for a way airlines can earn more and improve the experience at the same time. Here it is.

Two options exist for the delicate transfer of our luggage from point A to point B. Which would you prefer?

Option one: Pay $25-$50 per checked bag as you check-in for your flight. Hope your bag of vital clothing gets on the right flight (video: fastest baggage handlers ever) and wait anxiously an extra 10-30 minutes at baggage claim. Watch your bag arrive, potentially damaged (20-30% of the time). Option two: Lug your bag all the way to the gate, hope it fits into the overhead compartment and pay nothing. But, if your bag doesn't fit on the plane, the attendant will tag and carry it to the baggage handler for you. Then, find your bag hand delivered at the doorway of the plane as you exit. Well? Does option two sound more like a luxury to you? Perhaps something for which an airline should charge a fee?

This extraordinary experience happened on a recent flight. A moment when Kitty Hart of Capsule noticed the pile of bags stacked in the way of other passengers like some kind of hurdle challenge. This pile of bags really should have been checked, but wasn't. We paid a fee and had to wait for our bags at baggage claim. Our passenger friends claimed “carry-on” luggage and had their bags whisked away by the flight attendant and delivered back valet-style, for nothing.

Based on this observation, here's a suggestion for option two. Charge $75 for a bag checked at the gate. And charge $150 if you try to bring your bag on board and it doesn't fit. We've all met that bag coming back against boarding traffic as we're trying to find our seat. And while I’m here, please stop handing out smaller bags of peanuts. There are a fair number of passengers who notice and (Mr. and Ms. airline executive) our insults are increasing as the peanut count decreases. Three peanuts per bag equals roughly six muttered curses. Give a reasonable sized bag of nuts or don't give anything at all, and spend the savings thinking about the following questions.

Where has the elegance of airline travel gone? Will it ever come back for the average traveler? What can we do to make it an enjoyable experience for every passenger? What will that do to increase passenger loyalty, decrease complaints, increase revenue and make shareholders happy?

Thank you for flying Air Capsule, where we seek unique ways to design your experience.

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal, Capsule



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