DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Airline Marketing vs. Operations


Have you ever noticed the gap between what’s promised and what you end up with?  On my recent vacation that gap was disturbingly obvious.  Think about how much money airlines spend trying to get you to choose them over the competition.  But as soon as you book a seat, you’re suddenly moved from the marketing department to operations.

The Gap Between What’s Promised and What’s Delivered

Affordable; Flexible; Accommodating; and Comfortable“… I picked up this phrase on the website of one of the airlines we flew.  Management chose these words to describe their airline and used them over and over again on the site.

  • Affordable?  Relatively, yes.
  • Comfortable?  More so than the other airline we flew on for this trip.
  • Flexible and Accommodating?  Really?

My disappointment began on the night before the flight, checking-in on line.  I wasn’t crazy about paying for every piece of luggage I checked, but it wasn’t the end of the world.  However, I was dismayed for them to call it an “EXCESS BAGGAGE” fee.  What excess?  I was going to be gone for twelve days and would be doing everything from hiking in the snow to beach combing.  There was nothing excess about my baggage.  Obviously the marketing department hadn’t seen what operations was up to.

Along with my boarding passes I received very specific instructions about what to do at the airport.  I guess I don’t need to tell you that those instructions were useless when I got there.  A big thunderstorm rolled in after my computer session and DFW was a madhouse.  I admit, I already had a sour taste in my mouth about the “excess” baggage thing, but I wasn’t as dismayed about the fact that I couldn’t follow their specific instructions, as I was about the fact that there was nothing to indicate what I was to do in lieu of those instructions.

Every single airline employee had their head down helping other passengers (which was a good thing), but there was no one to answer any questions if you hadn’t made your way through the line to them, so we got in line.  Finally, someone showed up who seemed to be there to help with luggage.  We asked her about the instructions I received on the internet and she pointed to a kiosk.  We got out of line to use the kiosk and another employee yelled, “That won’t work.  Your flight is delayed over two hours. ”  Accommodating?  It seems that I was the one who was supposed to be Flexible.

In the airline’s defense, when I finally spent the requisite amount of time in line, the gentleman helping us was flexible and accommodating – but I wasn’t supposed to have to stand in line.  He apologized and smiled, even though we were just one of the many frustrated people he’d already dealt with or had waiting for him in line.  He tried to expedite us by booking us standby on several connecting flights, hoping we’d get lucky, but when we indicated that we didn’t want to spend the day stressing about whether or not we’d make stand-by, he gave us a definite seat on a later flight.  We rented a car during our lay over, had lunch outside the airport and caught a movie.  When you know what to expect, flexibility is easy.

Hello Corporate Decision Makers!  When I play by your rules, you should be nice to me.  You shouldn’t make money off my luggage fees and then insinuate I have excess baggage.  You shouldn’t leave me standing in a crowded airport wondering why I bothered to check in on line and what I should do next.  You shouldn’t send me letters explaining the ways you are going to downgrade the level of service you provide me and then try to convince me it is for my own convenience.  You shouldn’t make me fight with a phone tree before I can talk to a person.  You shouldn’t give me free stuff and then turn around a start charging me for it.

What about you fellow consumers?  How does the operations department tick you off after you’ve fallen for the marketing schpiel?

2 thoughts on “Airline Marketing vs. Operations”

  1. I don’t like the status quo, but I do remember when it was different – when you got dressed up to go on a flight, because it was an occasion, not an ordeal. I remember when we complained about airline food, not the lack of it. I can live with change, I just don’t understand why it never seems to be a change for the better.


  2. Marketing promises definitely do not carry over into operations – but then I expect all us travelers know that by now, and they know we know. But this shouldn’t give them leeway to snatch those promises away. Yet they do, and they do so with impunity – which is really what gets to us, I think. Sort of like the snake story, except the snake is an airline & at the end of the story he says, “Well, if you’ve ever traveled before, you knew when you bought the ticket we couldn’t keep those promises!” 😐


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