Improving Airline Service Would Build Brand Loyalty

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 7, 2003 | Go to article overview

Improving Airline Service Would Build Brand Loyalty


Byline: Gail Todd

If you took advantage of a recent ad in the Denver Post, you probably wondered what new product the airline was trying to sell.

In a full-page advertisement, United Airlines offered a free, first-class upgrade to readers who called the listed phone number. However, instead of buying a coach ticket and enjoying a first- class ride, callers got the chance to buy a live chat with a good- time girl. It gave new meaning to the slogan "Fly the friendly skies."

According to a retraction the following day, the phone number was a digit off. United has apologized for any inconvenience the mistake caused, but it might have accidentally put its finger on something.

At least would-be fliers weren't greeted with generic elevator music and a perky voice asking them to answer recorded questions as if they were a 5-year-old.

"Nobody can argue the airlines need to do something to bring back brand loyalty and make flying fun again," said my old flying partner, "but the 'Debbie Does Dallas' approach seems a little extreme."

I'm not sure. Hooters Air began flying early this year and it has already started adding planes. Somebody must like those chicken wings. At least it has an image.

"I used to always fly United," said frequent flier Doug Wood. "I liked its frequent-flier miles program and I liked its service, but now it has become so difficult to use the miles that they usually go to waste. There isn't any service on any airline, so I look for the best price and the best schedule."

Like Doug, many travelers find it difficult to tell the difference between the service of the big three airlines. Some are turning to the smaller carriers.

"I like Southwest Airlines because it knows who it is," said Jean Cowden. "If you choose Southwest you're doing it for the lower fares and not for the service. …

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