Sudan Airways. Bulgaria Air. Ukraine International. Are the Airlines You Fly Any Better?

Here’s a memento from TWA. A baggage tag from the days when air travel had a bit charm, glamour and panache.
Here’s a memento from TWA. It’s  from the days when air travel had a bit charm, glamour and panache.

After reading this, you might want to go to to book future trips.

Train instead of plane.

At least there’s less chance your bag will go astray and the first thing you’ll be doing in your arrival city is buying underwear and a toothbrush.

To that point here are a few figures.

American Airlines: 205,060 baggage problems in 2013.

US Airways: 105,730 bags lost or damaged in 2013 according to the US Department of Transportation statistics.

United Airlines: 236,326 bags lost in a year. A Herculean effort in reverse.

Add to this … uh … hold on.

I was about to mention airlines turning away tens of thousands a year at the gate because of overbooking.

But as I write, the latest airline story is a gaffe involving porn.

Someone at US Airways sent a X-rated photo as a response to a passenger complaint.

Chances are you heard about it and wondered about one thing: how do you explain that away?

More to explanations, how do you spin iffy airline ratings on

The figures above come from that site with a list of 15 of the world’s worst airlines.

American, US Airways and United are listed here. Also a North Korean carrier, Sudan Airways, Bulgaria Air, Ukraine International and more.

Complaints sink them all. So what can marketers do to cope with unhappy customers?

Maybe each ticket should come with a downloadable pre-apology and premium coupon.

A fellow air passenger shared this with me. But then added that airlines would probably make a hash of it and the apology would somehow come out in Gaelic.

If you’ve read David Ogilvy you know that apologies can be an opportunity. Taking the right kind of responsibility for your actions can make all the difference.

Here’s a Virgin Airlines complaint letter CEO Richard Branson answered with a phone call.

Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation apologized to customers in Japan. He was contrite and reassuring.

It made a difference.

Steve Jobs headed off problems at the pass. At times he was known to personally take help line calls.

On more of a day-to-day level are you educating your frontline staff to handle the brickbats that come your way?

After all, isn’t that a necessity when your customers are more than customers? They’re online publishers with smart phones at the ready to send out verdicts on your brand.

Difficulties, misdeeds, inconveniences … they bring up two thoughts in your customers’ minds. You’re either  thoughtless or witless.

Over to you to correct that.

To that end, can you thoroughly trust those handling your social media? Is there corporate responsibility there?

Imagine the way US Airways would have blithely answered that question before their porn incident.

Are your people schooled to understand your customers’ problems and are they empowered to act to solve them?

Extra training can help.

So why not bolster your training program by getting in the experts on organizational improvement. Let them professionally educate your frontline troops, the people who color your customers’ impressions of your brand.

That way you’ll be forearmed to turn problems into opportunities.

Even if you are Sudan Airways, Bulgaria Air, Ukraine International … or US Airways.

Share your take on marketing thinking with us. Can the way you handle complaints give you an advantage against your competitors? Thanks, Steve Ulin


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