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Safe landing with good customer service

by Sarah Shea

For many, travel is a necessary evil. Business people travel several times a week, normally going through the motions like zombies. While I love to travel, I find myself loathing the “getting there” part.

I’d rather not spend $10 on a sub-par sandwich or banter with grumpy airline attendees. However, the destination is usually worth it.

As my obsession with ABC’s new show, “Pan Am,” grows, so does my envy of its display of travel. I crave the glamour of 1960s travel each and every time I watch it.

In a Los Angeles Times review, Robert Lloyd said, “The show says, yes this is as good as it looks, and it looks very good — though anyone who has flown anywhere in the last, oh, 30 years, may find it difficult to believe, or to remember, that air travel ever was this gracious, customer-friendly, or fun.”

Now, with the pain of airport security and countless cancelations, I can hardly believe that flying was ever as enjoyable as the show makes it seem.

But what if it was?

If airlines placed a little more emphasis on building these types of relationships, the pay-off would be worth it.

Having flown continentally and abroad, I’ve had a wide variety of travel experiences. I’ve flown on airlines like RyanAir, paying less than $10 for a ticket and more than $200 in overweight baggage fees. Conversely, I have traveled with airlines that have been more than willing to find extra space for my behemoth of a backpack.

Regardless, I have never gotten off a plane wishing I could spend a little more time with the crew. Sure, I’ve had good experiences, but never anything to write home about.

If airlines go back to the premise of customer service in their business, maybe I would. If nothing else, the air around airports would be lifted.

Maybe airlines have something to learn from TV.



  1. Post comment

    Thanks for your response, Madolyn. I do agree that flying has become rather mundane for much of this generation, but that’s exactly where I’m making my point. I have flown since I was an infant and simply go through the motions while traveling. I don’t expect good service, but I think I hope for it.

    Let’s compare this to, say, getting coffee in the morning. I go to a coffee shop several times a week, not expecting particularly good service. However, in time, I found a shop with superb customer service. I have built a relationship with the owner, who has come to know my order or suggest things she thinks I’d like. While getting coffee has become very routine, I always notice when the barista takes a little more time or builds a relationship with customers. This a much smaller scale than an airline, but I think these types of relationships start from the bottom up.

    At this point in my life, I may not mind flying much, but I do notice superior service and make a point of being grateful for it. The airlines which, so to speak, “remember my order” are the ones that make flying more than a habitual practice.

  2. Post comment

    I have to disagree with some of the points made in the blog post. During the University of Alabama’s fall break less than a month ago, I flew for a short vacation away from campus so the airport experience is fresh on my mind. From the ticket check-in, the security line and the gate entrance, every process was habitual for me, as well as for most of the other fliers. Flying has just become a normal practice for travelers and therefore the experience has become mundane and routine. In the 1960s, like on the new show PanAm, flying was a new and exciting thing, and it was a luxury for most people. But today it is a common way of travel for many people and the zest and zeal of flying has become usual and standard. However, the airline services have costumers and we, as customers, deserve and expect friendly customer service and it will be hard for the public relations practitioners of these airlines to promote a positive image if many customers have distaste with their flying experiences.

  3. Post comment

    I have flown places my whole life and agree the airline business could improve its customer service. The glamorous lifestyle “Pan Am” portrays is unrealistic in today’s society. Flying has become a commodity that everyone is accustomed to. I agree that customer service should be a priority, however, airline safety should be a top priority. Since September 11, 2001, airlines have been more concerned with tight security instead of customer service. Unfortunately it will be a long time before we see airlines become more like “Pan Am”.

  4. Post comment

    I must agree with this blog post. Traveling while becoming less of a nuisance is still very inconvenient and as you say I have never walked off a plane and wished I could spend more time with the crew.
    Maybe airline companies will have a look at the glamorous life they can aspire to while watching Pan Am.
    Finally, your point I agree most with is the 10 dollars for an average sandwich. When are the prices in airports going to decrease and the level of cuisine increase?

  5. Post comment

    Wheb I flew home for fall break the crew was fairly rude. The flight was behind schedule and one of the flight attendants said on the intercom “we were ahead of schedule until we got here. Come on people find a seat you’re making us late!” I thought that was out of line. I also saw a flight attendant roll her eyes as she walked away from a passenger. Attitude check!

  6. Post comment

    I am one of the people who love flying. I love everything about it. I love people watching in the airport, I love sitting next to random people on the plane and becoming friends with them, I love the pretzels with ginger ale and I love taking off and landing.
    I really think the quality of customer service depends on which airline you travel with. Southwest airlines is good at making you laugh while you are in the air by rapping the safety announcements or dancing down the isle while they are passing out peanuts. Continental has really nice planes with the individual TVs on the back of every seat.
    Also, the airport you are traveling to and from really make a difference. If you are in the Birmingham airport, you may find two food vendors in the entire airport, but if you go through the Houston airport you can dine on good Mexican, burgers, and seafood.
    “Pan Am” may be a TV show that makes flying look fun, but most TV shows make people scared to fly. “Lost” shows the plane completely crashing and they are on a lost island forever and “Red Eye” is about a serial killer on the plane.
    I may be one of the strange people who enjoys flying, but I really think it depends on the situation.

  7. Post comment

    As a Communication Studies major and a Public Relations minor, I often find myself critiquing the communication efforts made by large companies to build relationships with customers. I enjoyed reading this blog for the simple fact that everyone can relate to it. I find myself so stressed and frustrated with every airline I fly, sometimes wishing that teleportation was feasible. But on a more serious note, this reminded me of a case study that I read once about a band member traveling with United Airlines whose guitar was broken by improper handling. When United Airlines made no attempts to fix what it had broken, the band wrote a song about it and shared it on Youtube. By incorporating technology, they were able to draw attention to the issue, not only to the customers of United Airlines but also to the staff of United Airlines. Soon, the problem was resolved. This brings me to my point: through technology, with either a video going viral or a television show that glorifies airlines, individuals can raise awareness of the mistreatment by customer service. Who knows, maybe the right person will hear the message and we can all benefit from a more pleasant traveling experience.


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