Never ask anyone "How was your flight?" The answer is that it was bad.
I flew with United Airlines recently and they sent me an email survey that was the corporate version of "How was your flight?" The letter from Martin Hand, Senior Vice president for Customer Experience said, "Your opinion is important to us." I've seen enough customer satisfaction surveys in my life to know that they are designed by the company to pat itself on the back and they don't really want to hear complaints. The least important thing to them is my opinion.
Over the years I've filled out surveys about the seats. And every time the airlines asked about the seats, they got smaller and closer together. Do you know anyone who ever told an airline the seats are too big?
A few weeks ago I flew United to Albany, NY by way of Cleveland. I was supposed to arrive in Albany at 8:15 p.m. The plane from Los Angeles was late departing and late arriving in Cleveland. I missed my connecting flight and was sent to Chicago. I arrived in Albany at about 1a.m.
My return flight was late departing its Cleveland connection, but the pilot stepped on the gas and landed on time in Los Angeles.
As I write this, I have a 17-year-old daughter flying Air France from Biarritz through Paris to Los Angeles. The flight from Biarritz was an hour late and then she had to wait to pick up her bag before catching a bus from Orly to DeGaulle. Now the Air France desk at DeGaulle won't let her check in for the Los Angeles flight, even though it is delayed and sitting at the gate. They can't get her on the morning flight tomorrow either. She's going to be stuck at the airport like a stateless person and Air France has already sent a customer satisfaction survey.
Running an airline is a tough business and I wouldn't want to do it myself any more than I would like to run a restaurant. But it is the business the airlines are in and they need to do a better job. This is what you do for a living and we pay you.
Customer satisfaction surveys never ask the questions we want to answer. And any airline that has a vice president for "Customer Experience" is never going to know what life is like for their customers. It means that they don't know or personally talk to people who pay to fly their airline. Here are a few questions I'd like to be asked by Martin Hand.
1. How do you like paying $25 to check a bag?
2. Do you enjoy being tapped to pay more for double miles when you check in?
3. Is the seat comfortable?
4. How do you like being asked to pay for an upgrade to an "Economy Plus" seat that is still too small? Economy plus what?
5. What's it like when the guy in the middle seat is a football player?
6. Do you like paying extra for bad food?
7. Do you consider it an improvement that you now have to pay to watch the in flight video?
8. How do you feel when the man in front of you leans back and your book is five inches from your nose?
And here are some unsolicited answers I would like to give to the Vice President for Customer Experience.
1. Take off and land on time.
2. Go to the city I paid to go to.
3. Bring my bags with me and don't charge to do it.
4. Install seats made for the human body.
5. Make good food and give it to me for free.
6. The flight crew was great and they deserve better management.
Also, if you know anyone over at Air France, would you get them to return my daughter?