Hey Airline Industry: Try This!

Posted on April 12, 2017 in Leadership

Dear airline industry,

I’m sure you’re all going through that wonder-filled corporate ritual of “lessons learned” from the United fiasco.

So, here’s an idea you may not have thought of.

Instead of trying to “optimize” for on-time performance and maximize revenue passenger miles by overbooking and expecting your customers to solve your problem for you, do what we storytellers call a reversal.

Turn these situations into an opportunity to delight your customers and, in the process, get yourself some serious social cred.

Try this: a reverse auction.

First, be straight with your passengers: you need some of them to give up their seats. Then let them know you’ll make it worth their while. Start with tickets on another flight (your airline or—gasp—one of your competitors’), plus a financial inducement. Make your first offer generous (if you must be corporate about it, do some focus groups). If there are no takers, up the amount. And while you’re doing it, create a festive atmosphere. Maybe have some of your gate staff bring out a lighted sign. A blue light special, of sorts. Keep upping the inducement until you have the takers you need.

Sure, doing this might wear out after a while, lose its special appeal. So come up with a bunch of different ways. Build some anticipation–will MY flight be the one where I could make some serious cash by helping these poor airline people out?

And while it lasts, think of all the viral videos trumpeting your generosity and customer-focused spirit flying around the internet, instead of…you know.

You can’t buy enough paid advertising to generate that kind of buzz.

So, corporate folk, kick this idea around, put it through your SWOT analyses, run the financials, whatever you have to do.

Then summon up some guts and do it.

You’re welcome.