No such thing as a free chocolate biscuit

Mauricio is upset that free biscuits are on the way out for AirNZ domestic flights. I’m glad.

I have no desire to pay for everyone else’s biscuits (coke, beer, hot meals etc.). If I am thirsty offer me water, but make me pay for everything else including food, alcohol and fizzy drinks (and you pay for yours). The only real tradition that AirNZ should keep is the sweets offered as landing approaches.
Airline travel is a combination of services, which are currently co-mingled but I really feel should be separated more:

: How easy it is to buy and change the ticket
: Getting to and from the airports
: Time in check in and security – long queue or no queue sir?
: How much luggage you check in (and how big/heavy you are personally)
: Where you hang out before you depart – seats at the gate? business class lounge and networking? all the way to ‘Free Hair cut sir?’ (VA again)
: A seat, which could range from a plank to a fully enclosed bed, and is located front/back/window/aisle/center between two fatties.
: How long you sit on the plane before departing and after arriving
: Transport from Airport A to Airport B, which can be direct, indirect, delayed or on time, fast or slow.
: Food and (non water) drinks, which can range from packaged American crap food to vintage champagne and haute cuisine
: Personal attention – ranging from ‘number please’ to ‘Time for your massage Mr. Wiggs’ (That’s Virgin Atlantic)
: Other entertainment during the journey, and how I feel during the flight
: How long to get out of the airport and how long (if ever) it takes to retrieve your luggage
: and, of course, the cost.

Many of these have both absolute and relative elements. How long you sit on the plane, for example, is a function of how long everyone sits on the plane, and how close to the door you are.

Also many of these elements are beyond the control of airlines (or airlines like to think they are). Airports can get congested, staff from another organisation can delay luggage arrival, ‘feel good’ security measures slow things down, and the airport itself could be located far away from efficient public transport.

But very very few airlines understand that this is the (partial) list of things that their customers are concerned about. Virgin Atlantic gets it, and respond by offering (upper class) passengers door to door service, the best airline lounge in the world, massages to reduce stress in flight, lie-flat seats, easy and free time of itinerary changes, a bar in flight, and all of the other standard business class accoutrements.

Some airlines (JetBlue, Southwest) fight to be in airports that are able to contribute to the passenger experience. Long Beach, which is the LA airport JetBlue flys out of, offers a rental car to gate times of 10 minutes (with luggage – I know from experience), which is phenomenal in the current USA climate, and makes LAX feel like medieval torture in comparison.

Many airports (Wellington, Heathrow) offer a fantastic level of service so that business class lounges are less required. These airports make significant money from the plethora of shops arrayed in what is essentially an up-market shopping mall and deliver relatively contented customers to airplanes.

I could go on. and on. and on.

Most of these features have been priced by placing various levels of them in economy, business and first class products. But why not let me select the elements I want and price them myself?

Sell first class meals to people in economy.

-Offer to upgrade folk in economy to an empty business class seat, while serving them an economy class meal. Charge them $0, $50 or $500 in the flight. (Qantas is guilty of not doing this).
-Sell food, rather than give it to everyone. Offer different standards of food.
-Charge us in flight without pain – we used a credit card to buy the ticket – so let us select to allow you to charge extras during the flight. Else let us use the entertainment system to buy stuff (food, upgrades, duty free) with a credit card.
-Offer to take responsibility for getting us to the airport, and to the office or hotel on the other side.
-Charge by total size-adjusted mass of travelers and luggage
-Let us upgrade to a flat bed for half of my flight. (and someone else for the other half)
-Let us (in and out) out two doors rather than one so we deplane faster.
-Give or sell us shorter lines – through security, at check-in, at boarding, at taxis.
-Don’t annoy us during the flight – turn down the volume on the inflight announcements – we are not deaf and nor do we want to be. Put the captains comments (Captains blog?) on the entertainment system. Shorten and tighten the safety announcement.
-Deliver free wifi not only at the airport but also in flight.

Again I could go on and on and on. Once you think about serving your customer’s complete experience then this stuff just falls out.

Strangely enough I had a flawless experience yesterday flying with AirNZ return to Nelson. More of the same please.


Published by Lance Wiggs


3 replies on “No such thing as a free chocolate biscuit”

  1. There’s a good thing – offer upgrade to seats when available. Many times I’ve seen empty seats in business class and would gladly take them if the airline didn’t want to charge 100% of the price.

    Once I managed to buy an upgrade on QANTAS, at the airport, at a fraction of the original cost. They were happy to be making some money of an otherwise empty seat. But it looks like many other companies rather have people in the coach than sell business a bit cheaper, on the spot.


  2. The reason airlines take a hard line on business class seats is because otherwise people would only go for cheap upgrades from economy at the airport…

    Lance’s idea sounds nice until you remember that airlines would charge for everything on top of the existing fares. It would mean a service degradation for everyone not willing to pay more to avoid it. Such a system would also be complex for customers and to manage, so… no go.


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