Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Carry On, My Wayward Son...

A fellow passenger on a recent US Airways flight to Washington DC became quite upset with the flight attendant over the lack of carry-on space aboard our Embraer regional jet. Specifically, she was unhappy that so many of the passengers who had boarded before her had carried on baggage that there was little room left for her bag.

While it's never OK to abuse the employees of any company, it is particularly unwise to curse at a flight attendant. From my seat near the cockpit, I clearly heard the F/A tell the captain, "She's just about to lose her seat."

The passenger, who may never know how close she came to being escorted off the plane, was nonetheless justified in her frustration. Even before airlines began charging all but their top-tier fliers for checked bags, people abused the privilege of carrying on. I recall a family of five - mom, dad, and three kids, all under 5 - schlepping 10 carry-ons. I counted. Many were kid-sized suitcases that the parents were carrying but, by gawd, they met the "two carry-ons per person" rule. This is exactly the type of passenger who SHOULD be checking their bags for so many reasons, not least of which is the hog factor: taking more than your fair share of space.

When the fees for checked bags began to pop up, I wrote the CEOs of all the carriers I fly that had instituted this practice and told them they were doing exactly the opposite of what they SHOULD be doing: charging passengers for carry-ons.

Frequent business fliers like me are often on a tight schedule, which is precisely why we carry on. We don't want to hang around the airport for another 30 - 45 minutes waiting for our bags; we have places to be.

But these execs - who doubtless always fly first-class - don't feel the effects of their own rules, and sure as the dickens don't feel our pain.

It's simple; if you want to keep your customers, you've got to keep them happy, and a time-tested way to do that is to provide excellent customer service. The airlines' current baggage policies are not "excellent customer service."

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