Perspective: More Delays, Worse Service: A Frequent Traveler Laments - Business Travel News

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Perspective: More Delays, Worse Service: A Frequent Traveler Laments

November 13, 2012 - 02:25 PM ET

By Tom Barrett, Ascend Performance Materials senior manager of indirect procurement

Enough of the slick sales pitches, glossy ads and impressive TV commercials that promote good service and carefree travel. Who hasn't fallen prey to imagining themselves in one of those beautiful destinations, then booked the travel, anticipating an experience and memories to last a lifetime? But reality sets in as the journey begins. Memories of the journey can often be more outstanding than the destination.

We pay hard-earned money for the date and travel time of choice, and for that money we expect to get that date and travel time. Poor on-time performance, cancellations and missed connections weren't mentioned in the glossy ads. Today, we book our own travel, print our own boarding passes and carry our bags on board without ever having made eye contact with an agent. If we feel lucky, we check the bag and hope, never quite believing it will roll around on the carousel until we see it—oops, that's not our black bag. Oh, there it is! Whew! Visions of purchasing clothing at the hotel gift shop for the first night in the beautiful destination dissolve.

[Please click here to view the digital edition of The Frequent Traveler: Finding A Balance, featuring all charted data, downloadable as a pdf.]  

A mediocre (at best) airport experience wasn't outlined in the TV commercial. If the passenger facilities fees included in the price of the ticket are meant for facilities improvement, we wonder where the improvements are being made. A recent non-scientific survey of airport restrooms in the Northeast showed restrooms in need of plumbing and a good cleaning. In a paid-membership airline lounge recently the air conditioning was supplemented with a fan, and the temperature in the terminal was cooler than in the lounge.

Tom BarrettWe often pay security fees in the price of our ticket, and yet even when arriving at peak times we often find security lanes shut down with Transportation Security Administration agents on break, and a line that resembles that of the Space Mountain ride at Disney World. Is it too much to ask that the number of available agents correspond to the number of expected passengers? Is a smiling and friendly TSA agent too much to ask?

Sadly, we've come to expect travel delays as normal. Travel now often means a less-than-productive day with late-arriving aircraft, mechanical interruptions, changes of aircraft and late departures. We have come to expect lower and lower levels of service for an ever-increasing price. Even my most recent stay at a national hotel brand lacked the crisp service that used to be standard, and dirty windows in the rental car go unnoticed.

I'm sure many on the sell side of the travel industry can point to record improvements, facilities awards and accolades for great service, but has the industry become complacent? As the economy continues to put pressure on our travel dollars and permanently increase the cost of service, it seems the travel and hospitality industry no longer believes it has to earn our business. I think we pay enough to get the products and services as advertised, but how can travelers influence the industry? Soon enough, there will be an app for that, one that measures the product and service delivered against the price paid. Then, the industry will take notice.

Here's a salute to all airport and travel personnel who with a smile on their face and polite words deal with Granny, the disabled, the disgruntled and the uninformed. (Yes, I still see people trying to take full-size liquids through security.) We thank you and appreciate your service.

As the holiday season approaches, I hope there is a refocus so expectations are met, and value for money is delivered to the traveling public. How nice would it be to arrive home and realize the most outstanding memories were the ones created at your destination?

This perspective originally appeared in the Oct. 22, 2012, edition of Business Travel News. 

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