Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Three bad business models.

U.S. Airlines score pooly in customer survey. Susan Carey, WSJ ($)

 But air travel continues to generate low scores, and was in the bottom three among 47 industries polled, along with subscription TV service and newspapers, the ACSI said.

Of the three lowest industries, two are watching themselves be slowly unmade by market forces.  Newspapers are being (sort-of) replaced in the market by online news services and subscription paid TV's days are numbered due to new Internet options.

While finding replacements for those two will be (relatively, not for the people who lose their jobs of course) painless, finding a replacement for air-travel is going to take more than a few pie-in-the-sky longings for high-speed rail. Watching a nasally-voiced, marginal talent in ill-fitting pants trying to order paella is a poor substitute for heading over the Spain and ordering it yourself.  While net-conferencing is all the rage, there's still the intimacy of a face-to-face that holds a certain allure in business.  In short, we can't easily replace domestic and international airline service.

It may be that the powers that be behind the executive desks at domestic airlines really don't care.  Smilin' Jeff Smisek of United can tell you how much he'd like to thank you for flying all he wants but, when things go wrong, the plane is delayed and you're sitting on the tarmac sweating out your (now certainly) missed connection knowing full well that you're going to run into a customer service nightmare when you land, those assurances ring hollow.  Maybe because air-travel will always be with us change is so slow in coming.

But come it better, and soon.  We all (should) understand that running a major airline is akin to herding cats who are being chased around by a pack of dogs but that doesn't mean that airlines can't get the little things right.  Better yet, they could do a better job at them.  Stop cutting back service and start focusing on making the experience more enjoyable and less stressful, and not just for the folks in First Class.  The technology is there for on-board computers, why not use it to aid (or allow) people to handle their missed connections issues proactively? 

It's time someone at the US Airlines came up with a better mousetrap instead of trying to suck more blood out of the mice that are caught.  Innovation can save this industry, but currently it's not headed by innovators.

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