I'm not sure exactly when it was that my brain "broke", but I find it nearly impossible to view products or services without thinking about why they don't work and how they could be made better. It's a constant obsession of mine, but I like tinkering, so it's all good.
Case in point: I flew ICN-SFO yesterday on one of my least favorite airlines for long flights. Let's call it Airline X. I chose Airline X for this trip specifically because it was significantly cheaper for my multicity itinerary. I usually like to fly Singapore or Asiana, both of which are fantastic, but it was a bit too pricey this time around.
Anyway, the experience on Airline X is consistently poor compared to the market leaders. What strikes me the most about it is that every time I fly them, it seems as if it's the crew's first day on the job. That is, they've clearly done the job dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times, but nothing is smooth. For instance, it's a common site to see two attendants bickering about where to stop the food/drink cart as they're going down the aisle. Haven't you done this before? Isn't there a very specific, set protocol for doing everything?
It's almost as if the crew are told what they're supposed to do, but were never taught how to do it. If I were to imagine a flight attendant training program, it would go over all responsibilities of a flight attendant, along with instructions for the safest, most efficient, most customer-happiness-focused way of doing it. But on Airline X, it seems the execution is just left up to the whims of the crew.
Some fun examples on the two recent transpacific flights:
- Flight attendant comes by with water as I'm watching a movie on my laptop. She literally drops it into my hand a few inches below, spilling water all over me and my laptop. Then she laughed.
- I asked for tea, and was handed a cup to hold, while the flight attendant poured hot water into the cup. This is just some light turbulence away from a lawsuit. Watch how they do it on Asiana (and all other Asian airlines, for that matter): tea cup (reusable rather than styrofoam) goes on tray, flight attendant fills up cup on tray, customer takes filled cup.
- At dinner time, I saw a flight attendant shuttling armfulls of 3-4 dinners from the cart to the row 10 feet away. Who thought this was a good idea, or would even save time? There's a reason most airlines stop the cart at the row and then hand out trays.
- The more fun part of the above is that as a "courtesy" to the passengers, she was removing the plastic cover from the entrée. Of course, this meant that she would drip condensed water over everyone else in the row.
- On the same leg and airline but a different trip, I almost had my legs sheared off in the exit row as a flight attendant attempted to turn around a food cart. This falls under the above category - hadn't he ever practiced it before, and isn't there a set protocol for it?
- The little details: Airline X flight attendants don't lightly place meals down, they drop them without looking. This leaves a bad impression for the customer.
- Timing: Dropping off dinner and coming by for garbage 5 minutes later is just dumb. Coming by with cups of water and not coming by for garbage until 5 hours later is even worse.
- Foreign language training: Seriously, if you're flying to/from Korea (or Japan, or China, whatever), you can take the time to learn a little bit of that language. At the absolute bare minimum, learn the names of the meat in the meals. It's only two words. Since Airline X describes their dinners merely as protein delivery vehicles ("Beef or chicken?"), you can learn those two words in the non-English language. It's not up to the customer to know them.
I'll be waiting for my consulting gig to improve the service on Airline X. In the meantime, next time I'm going back to Asiana.