Friday, September 19, 2008

Lowering the bar

We live in a world where companies in most industries must try relentlessly to improve their products, services and price competitiveness simply in order to keep up with the competition.

Airlines and airports seem to exist in some bizarre parallel universe where the opposite applies.

First there's the high farce know as "airport security". One set of rules apply when you board your plane in the US and a different set apply when you board your plane in the UK to return home. Even worse, the rules applying today at Heathrow are different from the rules that applied at Heathrow last week when I flew to Dublin!

Then there's crap like this that BMI have the hide to sell as "Business Class."

Yes you do get a hot meal and the flight attendant does hang your coat for you, but come on, this is standard sardine style economy seating (it doesn't look too bad in the photo only because that's the first row in the plane). Even United, which has become a miserable excuse for an airline, doesn't have the chutzpah to market its Economy Plus product as business class and it's at least got an extra five inches of legroom!

Talking about United, I can't believe how bad their long-haul international business class is. Yes they have supposedly started rolling out a new flat seat (at last, only a decade behind their competitors) but I've yet to actually see it in the wild, and in the meantime it seems that they've decided to do zero maintenance on the old seats (or their scarily old flight attendants).

Then there's the new Star Alliance lounge at Heathrow Terminal 1. It's in a different class to United's pathetic "Red Carpet" lounges, meaning that it provides the services that everywhere else in the world are standard in an international business class lounge. With one exception. It's supposed to have free wireless internet but the signal hovers between "very low" and "no signal".

It turns out that they don't actually have a transmitter in there and are relying on picking up the signal from the First Class lounge! When you spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on fitting out a lounge, I suppose it makes sense not to spend an extra fifty bucks on a wireless hub, because then you might, shock horror, actually provide a decent service to your customers.

The constant incompetence and stupidity of this entire industry just gives me a headache!

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