Fly the friendly skies of…almost no one.

Fly the friendly skies of…almost no one.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at

Fly the friendly skies of… almost no one.

Airline service. If you’re looking for THE oxymoron to exit the twentieth century, that would top the list.

Passengers have been so upset with unfair service and airline business practices that they complained to their congressmen. The house held hearings. Horror stories were told. Legislation was about to be passed.

The airlines were about to get slammed by the government. Uh oh. Time for “action.” Or should I say reaction. You see if it weren’t for the impending laws, they would have done nothing.

Now you’d think that the airlines would make some announcement about phenomenal service additions and changes. As a major flyer myself (more than 200,000 miles last year), I was poised for something big.

That was my first mistake. In the paper last month was an outline of what the major airlines agreed to do.

Get this:
A full refund if you cancel within 24 hours
To pay for something they lost or broke
To tell the truth more often and faster.
To reveal lower priced tickets when available

That’s it.
Now, is that pathetic or what?

All airlines agreed to this “big improvement” EXCEPT Southwest why? They have been doing that and more for the past ten years. And by the way making a profit.

Here’s a quote from USA Today: US Airways said its “Customer Commitment” is aimed at ensuring passengers receive consistent service, whether they fly on the main line, the airline’s discount Metrojet service or on US Airways Express, its commuter service.

Hello. Isn’t that what any business would do as a MINIMUM. It tells you as though it were a big deal. I’m not looking for minimum, I’m looking for maximum.

US Airways sent me a printed pamphlet outlining the policy (their claim is that it’s “printed in plain language for passengers.” Am I not getting something here? How else would you print something, pig latin?) It was in a plain white business envelope looked like an advertisement more than an “announcement of a huge commitment.”

How does your business respond to dissatisfied or angry customers? If you ran your business like an airline, how long would you keep your customers loyal? The airlines is under some illusion that frequent flyer miles keep a passenger loyal. Joke. Frequent flyer miles is the only straw they have to prevent riots.

I’m looking for the word friendly. I’m looking for the word courteous. Missing. How about happy, glad, pleased, or honored. Missing. I’m looking for “thank you.” Those words are conspicuously missing from their “commitment.” Hey, maybe, just maybe they aren’t really sincere. Can you imagine that?

The guy who’s introduction letter is preprinted in the “customer commitment” booklet, Rakesh Gangwal, who supposedly is the president and CEO of US Airways. He actually can’t do squat without asking his daddy, the elusive Chairman, Stephen Wolf.

Where’s Wolf in all this “customer commitment” flurry? Well he writes a monthly “essay” in the airline magazine about how the waterways are polluted and if we all band together, we can clean them up. It scares me that this guy, writing drivel at a seventh grade level, is running the skies. You’d think ONCE he’d address the service issues that his customers would want to read about. Not a chance. Not one word.

REALITY CHECK ONE: Ninety of the airlines problems could be resolved with free tickets or money or both. But the “fairness to all” doctrine combined with the “shareholder value” shortsighted management, precludes clear thinking let alone fair treatment.

    REALITY CHECK TWO: There is a real simple set of commitments that the airlines could make that would not only change customer perspective it would actually create positive word of mouth advertising.

  • Be friendly
  • Be courteous
  • Have flat fares. Have one priced seating available up to the minute of departure.
  • Train friendly as well as professional
  • Eliminate insult charges 75.00 to change a ticket 75.00 to issue a FREE ticket if it’s less than two weeks to the flight
  • Two words edible food
  • Two more words drinkable coffee

REALITY CHECK THREE: Ever try to call an airline? Not just for complaints, I mean just to try to book a flight. To try to GIVE THEM MONEY. Computer voice and infinite hold. On one occasion I was so mad that I tried to get to talk to Stephen Wolf. I got to one of those “executive assistants that works in Mr. Wolf’s office.” After repeated ducking of my request to talk to Mr. Wolf, this young man finally said (his exact quote), “Mr. Wolf doesn’t talk to customers.”

Do I need to say any more about their “commitment?”

PLEASE NOTE WELL: I consider flying a miracle, and I’m grateful for the service it provides me to get from point A to B and earn a living. I am also grateful to the special agents at US Airways Chairman’s Preferred. People like Kathy and Midg who go out of their way to help me. The airlines could make it so much easier on themselves and the consumer if they would just let their corporate hair down and get friendly.

Until they do, their commitment will be as hollow as their ruse “to serve you better, please select from the following seven options.” Just once I’d like to have the option to press “8” and be assured of getting a friendly helpful person. How about you?

If you want to write me your opinion, please go to and click on Sales Help, then Your Service Story.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlottebased Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/3331112 or email to