What's happened to service?

In times gone by, travellers were extremely loyal to one company; many only wanted to travel with certain airline companies. However, times have changed. Travellers no longer want to be bound to airline companies – they want to be free to choose which one they fly with for each journey. Travellers mainly look at costs, efficiency and airport destinations. The actual air travel company no longer plays such a pivotal role. It intrigues me to see how different companies react to this shift.

Customer relations

Airline companies notice that the criteria passengers base their choice of flight on are in constant flux and do everything they can to attract customers to their company. Customer relations were usually promoted by offering extras. For instance, frequent flyers could enjoy a range of benefits. However, this did not adversely affect the high level of service for less frequent flyers, especially in larger airline companies 

Seat reservation costs money

Airline companies' levels of service have been noticeably dropping in recent years, with passengers having to pay for more and more services. For example, as of January 2016, KLM will be charging a fee for seat reservation. Only 'Flying Blue' members may pick a seat free of charge – and even then, this offer only applies to frequent KLM travellers who have 'Silver' status or higher. All other travellers need to wait to check in before being able to choose a seat free of charge that is still available. 

Rewarding frequent travellers or lowering the level of service?

This is a logical step when seen from the perspective of airline companies, as they are eager to reward loyal customers. However, I am puzzled about their approach: they lower the service level for other passengers instead of offering extras for frequent travellers. 

KLM's lower level of service for less frequent travellers means it is increasingly less able to distinguish itself from other airline companies. This means that less frequent travellers have even more flexibility in their choice. What would be the reason to go for a legacy carrier? 

What are you looking for?

It's worth noting that KLM is not unique in this respect: Lufthansa, SAS and Singapore Airlines are similar examples. Legacy carriers are slowly coming to resemble low-cost airlines in the battle for passengers. This is detrimental to the service we are used to. Seat reservation, on-board service and regulations for hold luggage have undergone many changes. While I can ask myself whether this is a sensible choice, the only people truly able to provide an answer are the passengers themselves. What are you looking for? Service and quality or low-cost flights? 

I look forward to hearing your opinion. 

Gertrude Recter
Gertrude Recter
Business Travel Consultant
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