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.
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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
We 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?
originally appeared in the Oct. 22, 2012, edition of Business Travel News.