There are very few things that people complain about more than the service they receive when they fly on commercial airline. Those of us who regularly fly or have flown in the past probably can recall a time or two when things did not go smoothly. Bags were lost, a connection was missed, planes were grounded, the pilots were late; the list goes on and on. Chances are you can identify a few airlines that messed up badly enough for you to never want to fly with them again. When we pay $200 to fly somewhere, we expect the service to be spot on. But I have to wonder, is that a realistic expectation?
I got to thinking about comparisons to the airline industry and one familiar example is the world of cheeseburgers. There’s a spectrum of service and product quality that is directly correlated with price. On the low end, you have companies like White Castle, McDonald’s, and Burger King selling their burgers for as little as a dollar a piece. On the high end there are hundreds of upscale restaurants and steakhouses across the country that serve burgers for as much as $25 or $30! At McDonald’s or Burger King, your expectations for the quality of service aren’t very high. It wouldn’t surprise you if an ingredient was missing on your burger, the cashier who took your order has nearly incoherent, or the burger was cold. You aren’t be fazed by mediocre service because you aren’t paying much for it. If you dine at an upscale restaurant on the other hand, you expect your burger to be perfect and the service spot on. After all, you are paying $25 for meat and cheese on a bun. The point is that you don’t expect five-star service from McDonald’s and you expect much more than McDonald’s service at a five-star restaurant.
When push comes to shove, I don’t think cheeseburgers are a whole lot different than airplane rides. You could spend as little as $125 flying coach on a lower cost airline like Delta, United, or AirTran and get average service. Or, you could spend $1300 flying on Turkish Airlines or British Airways and receive stellar service. Yet our expectations don’t necessarily match reality when it comes to flying. Many people expect the same level of service that they would get from a luxury airline from a discount airline. We don’t expect five-star service at McDonald’s so why do we expect luxury airline service from Southwest?
When it comes to flying, I think it’s important that we remind ourselves that the service and quality of product we purchase is directly proportional to how much we pay. In essence, you get what you pay for. I’m guilty of complaining about airlines just like the next guy, but I shouldn’t when I’m only paying $125 to fly. Speaking from a consumer perspective, perhaps I should be OK with mediocre service every once and a while. So the next time you are flying don’t get bent out of shape if a discount airline loses your bag or delays your flight. It’s not that big of a deal.