I had the unfortunate experience of flying cross-country a couple of weekends ago and was struck by the utter demise of the airline industry. It has wholeheartedly embraced a culture of mediocrity and has been reduced to peddling a commodity.
Like so many industries who’ve failed to rise above the commoditization of their product or service, the airline industry – for the most part – has adopted a “red ocean” strategy of nickel and diming the public while reducing customer service. Somehow they think their customers are going along with their master plan like indifferent cattle.
In their persistent march towards alienating their market, airlines are inadvertently laying the groundwork for an alternate, “blue ocean” strategy to emerge. Instead of looking for ways to add value, elevate service, introduce new features, improve ease-of-use, and enhance convenience, airlines use antiquated aircraft (one of my flights actually had ashtrays in the arm rests!), follow out-dated systems, and impose ever-increasing rates, hoping no one will notice or object too loudly.
These are the last desperate acts of a dying industry. They perceive their industry to be a monopoly – immune from the forces of outside competition. Consequently, at a time when most companies are looking for ways to add value, attract untapped market segments, leverage social interaction and embrace technology, airlines have adopted a culture destined to fail.
This indifference to their customers by their front line, by their systems, by their pricing policies, by their amenities (or lack thereof), ensures that someone will come along, change the rules of the game, and displace them. Every industry has experienced this. Poor restaurants close every day as soon as better competition arrives. Retailers collapse as competition – better tuned in to the desires of their market – come upon the scene. And older technologies fall by the wayside, giving way to newer technologies better attuned to the needs of the market.
I may not be an expert in the airline industry, but one thing I know for sure. The time is coming for an upstart to create a refreshing new strategy, which will overtake the dinosaur that the airline industry has become. Maybe we should be thankful for the indifferent attitude of the airlines after all…