2017 Current Article Relating to Marketing

653 words | 3 page(s)

On May 8, 2017, the news story “Have the ‘Miserable’ Airlines Finally Reached a Tipping Point?” by David Schaper, was published by National Public Radio. In this article, the author suggests that recent events in the airline industry may cause airline companies to adjust their marketing strategies in order to regain the trust of their passengers (Schaper, 2017). Public awareness of customer mistreatment has recently risen to public attention, after a viral video circulated on the internet of an incident on a United Airlines flight in April 2017. The video shows how an elderly man who refused to give up his seat on an overbooked flight was forcibly removed from the plane. Schaper also points out that there were similar incidents of customer mistreatment on American Airlines and Delta Airlines.

In order to get a feel for the current situation that may lead to marketing changes by the airline companies, Schaper interviewed several different passengers in airports around the country. These passengers describe how they have low expectations for airline companies in terms of comfort and customer service, and that the recent incidents have further worsened their perceptions of airline companies and the industry as a whole. Indeed, according to Dr. Kent Grayson, a marketing professor who studies the psychology of consumer trust at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the recent incidents have severely rattled consumer trust in the industry, which had already been gradually declining over the past ten years, as the airlines have subordinated passenger comfort to increasing their profit margins.

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Already, the airline companies have started taking the first steps toward implementing better marketing practices in order to increase consumer trust. For example, the travelers that Schaper interviewed for the story describe how the employees of the airline companies have been more friendly than usual. Also, the CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, apologized when he was called to testify by the Transportation Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also declared that the incident would serve as a turning point for the 87 thousand employees of United Airlines. His apologetic response was an important marketing strategy in itself, since expressing remorse is essential for regaining consumer trust.

Another marketing strategy that might be used by companies in the airline industry is to improve the services offered by airlines, including bringing back services that have been abandoned in order to cut down on costs. For example, airlines charge customers extra for overweight bags, checked bags, and even carry-on bags. Also, many airline companies no longer serve meals, snacks, or drinks on many flights. Other services, such as in-flight movies and free internet, have also been eliminated. Another major customer complaint is that airlines are designing planes so that seats are closer together, which makes it possible for airline companies to pack more customers onto a single flight, but it also makes passengers extremely uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, from a marketing perspective, it will be necessary for airline companies to take steps to improve the perceptions of air travelers without taking too hard a hit in their profit margins. According to aviation industry blogger and journalist Benet Wilson, who was also interviewed for the story, air travelers are likely to see airline companies try to strike this balance during the summer travel season. Their success may serve as an indicator of how well they bounce back from the recent damage to public confidence.

Also, if they do not make significant changes, Congress has threatened to pass a law that mandates minimal customer service standards for the airline industry. The passage of such a law would be another major marketing disaster for the airline industry, because it would serve to paint them in an even more negative light. Moreover, at the end of the article, Schaper predicts that customers will continue to film incidents of customer mistreatment on their cell phones, so airline companies will need to continue to be very careful going forward.

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