I have perhaps a slightly different view on this. First of all, I always consider myself privileged to be able to travel in premium cabins. I never, despite the price paid for a ticket feel I am “entitled to” something, nor does a status card with airline/hotels make me feel a sense of entitlement. I do however, have expectations related to the end-to-end services delivered by a brand and its overall value proposition. If I am unhappy with the overall customer experience, it is mostly because the provider in question is not living up to the value proposition they have invested in, but failed to deliver upon. “Fool me once, I am the fool. Fool me trice, you’re the fool”. Meaning, if I see constant dilution of the value proposition I simply move my business.
My professional travel life started in the spring of 1999, in my third year out of University. Since 1999, I have travelled at least 100 segments per year; mostly within Western Europe. At most, I’ve had 7-8 intercontinental trips in a year. Over the past 12 years I have seen a major change in the aviation industry driven by many factors including; technology innovation, terrorism, several recessions, the growth of LCCs, the growth of high-speed trains, and perhaps most importantly change in customer expectations. All of these factors (with perhaps many more) have driven airlines to changed business models rapidly.
I don’t envy the management and board of any airline. The political pressure, changing regulations, long investment cycles, vicious economic cycles, legacy cost, legacy employment contracts have made it difficult to run a stable long-term business model. Yes, some carriers like Ryanair have managed to grow and make money. However, Ryanair has never been asked to serve un-profitable local routes. On the contrary they have been handed cash by local authorities to create new routes. As an example, the City Council of Nyköping (owner of the Skavsta Airport) also known as “Stockholm” in Ryanair language gave Ryanair 50m SEK to establish a hub.
From my point of view, as long as we expect fares to be deflationary (as they have been) something has got to give; service levels, salaries etc.
It is not all dire news in my reflexion. On the positive side:
The long-haul hard products have improved immensely with vastly improved seats and entertainment systems
Technology allows us to be knowledgeable about our choices as well as self-provisioning customers with our chosen carriers
The lounge experience has improved
“Free market” has improved selection and prices across many routes
Fares have dropped in general
On the downside:
With declining yield, comes a push for higher cabin factors. This means we have sit at “sardines in a tin” at times
The pricing model has moved from all inclusive to “pay-for-use-model” disappointing some customers
Uncertainty and pressure have made staff more edgy
Due to terrorism, the airport experience has deteriorated
In the last year, and in the upcoming year I will travel mostly in/out of ARN, LHR, OSL, and ZRH. I use BA and LX mostly, with occasional segments on LH and SK. For the average fare that I pay in Club/Business of £400 per ticket, I feel I get excellent value for money from both carriers. The BA T5 experience with the Galleries lounges is excellent. I enjoy the Zurich experience with LX as well. I never have any issues with on-board service, food, or any of the staff. Perhaps it is due to my approach to them? So when I read all of the complaints about BA, I wonder if either a) I have too low expectations, or b) haven’t travelled long enough to see the real deteriorations of BA?