Why consumers think the airline industry is a joke (and what you can learn from it)

Little room and overpriced in-flight "perks" have been the punchline of jokes for years when it comes to travel. Even more recently a few airlines have been making the announcement that free in-flight snacks are back, and the consumers response is not overwhelmingly positive.

There is more to this than small seats, bad food, and ticket prices, especially when the consumer response or view is taken into account. Especially once you take into account the actual cost of these perks, how it effects the airline industry, and much more.

The consumers perspective is more than just a punchline that we all get, but a lesson that you can take and apply to your business no matter what industry you are in.

Taking away perks, and from the experience leaves customers feeling undervalued.

When the airline industry was starting to experience some struggles in early 2000's one of the first things to go for many major companies was free in-flight snacks for coach passengers. For the airline companies, they were cutting costs to keep their doors open. For the customers, they were losing a perk that already felt as if it was a low-value benefit.

When looking at this on scale, cutting a bag of peanuts can save a lot of money for a company who is otherwise giving them away for free. From the consumer perspective, it's almost a personal jab. Already not getting much of anything, and then taking away something that is obviously a low cost to save a few bucks.

As an alternative to maybe replace the benefit with another lower cost but higher value benefits would work better.

Take away free snacks, but maybe provide free priority boarding for the planners who show up early, or even simplifying checkout in some way.

Big wins for you, and no to little change for customers is frustrating.

One of the things that have been making consumers balk recently is airlines boasting of high profits of recent, but small kickbacks to them. If you talk about how successful you are one moment and then kick back a low-value benefit to your consumer, they won't be happy.

Especially in the case of air travel, where hundreds if not thousands of dollars are spent on a single trip. From the consumers view, they are spending a chunk of money and are having peanuts kicked back to them for their business.

In a space where repeat business is even more important, kicking down higher value perks would get the attention of customers more.

For example, making it easier to earn bonus miles, or even rewards that they can apply to their flight like free checked baggage is a bigger win, and rewards those that travel frequently.

Providing something they could easily do for themselves, doesn't feel like a benefit.

Adding insult to injury, if your customers could easily provide themselves the same experience (if not better) with little to no effort than what you are offering with your perk, then the desired outcome of leaving them feeling valued or improving their experience is lost.

A packet of mini pretzels used to be a nice perk when air travel for the average person wasn't common. But that's not the state of the industry anymore.

As with any space, once it starts to mature a customer's perspective changes as well.

It's part of the experience now to walk through a terminal shoeless, have bad snacks, and not be allowed to bring in your favorite liquid beverage until you enter to real of overpriced goods.

If airline industries instead looked at these experiences and worked to improve them, they would change the way we look at air travel. American Express does this by offering free warranties on specific purchases, no questions asked. If you buy a headset, and it breaks, but the store won't takes it back, American Express replaces it for you. This improves the buying experience, making you more likely to use their cards.

At the end of the day, even the stress of air travel has it's lessons that we can apply to our businesses.

Instead of looking at them as a punchline, you can adapt and learn how to use it to improve your own business.