Last fall, Michael O‘Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, announced that he was going to overhaul the airline’s customer relations strategy, softening the sharp edges that make booking, check-in, and flying so challenging. The motivation was the public abuse that he was receiving from disgruntled customers when he went to McDonalds with his family: Lucy Kellaway noted that it was a triumph for face-to-face feedback.
Which brings me to the trials of flying Frontier Airlines.
Forbes called Frontier the worst airline to fly at Christmas, with nearly a third of flights delayed. Despite good weather, both of my flights to and from Denver were each delayed over four hours. The outbound leg was further complicated by a 2-hour wait to check bags because of computer glitches.
The comparison to (the older, meaner) Ryanair came on boarding, as the airline piled small insults on top of larger delays. Every carry-on had to be weighed and measured to assure it wouldn’t qualify as checked baggage, deserving of a $100 fee. Flight attendants had to process $1.50 credit card payments for soda, slowing cabin service. Luggage was delayed almost an hour after landing because the ground staff was diverted to fix a stuck cargo door.
It was an endurance test that wouldn’t have gone unnoticed (nor uncompensated) in Europe,where there is a strong Air Passengers Rights protection. I can only hope that David Siegel has his own customer conversion experience at McDonalds.
I try to remain pretty philosophical about travel headaches: if I tire of the experience, I should stay off the road. So take along some good reading, a podcast or two, a sense of humor, and my lounge access card, then just settle in.