It’s easy to complain, especially when things truly go wrong. But I believe the “price” for complaining, if you will, is also making sure you dish out at least as many compliments when things go right. Thus, I will frequently ask to see the manager at a restaurant, only to astonish her by saying “my waitress was terrific” or “that was an awesome dinner.” (They’re always surprised. I know why. They’re used to complaints, not compliments.)
So it’s time to talk about two airlines that treat me well. Consistently. Sure, your experiences may vary. Everyone has a favorite airline and a worst airline, and the two I cite here may be on your “most hated” list. But these two are worth a bouquet, for what they do.
Continental has converted me from a loyal, almost-two-million-miles Delta flyer to someone who says, “I’ll go out of my way, and even spend a bit more money, to fly Continental when I can.” It comes down to nine simple words:
They treat me like a valued customer. Every time.
It started long before I was a “gold” elite. When I’d use their Web site, it worked. When I’d call reservations, they’d do everything they could to take care of me. If I’d ask for something specific, they’d say yes (or occasionally no) without hesitation.
And for the last three years, at least, when I’ve arrived at the airport or stepped onto the plane, every CO employee I’ve dealt with has made me feel appreciated as a customer — taken care of as the person who’s paying his or her salary. I like that. It’s a huge turnaround for CO from five or six years ago, and it’s one they can be proud of.
Southwest Airlines, too, fulfills its brand promise very well. For many years, I hated Southwest because of the interminable lines to accomplish anything and because the “bus with wings” analogy fit. But a funny thing happened. Southwest got better. And perhaps the shabby treatment we’ve become accustomed to from other airlines has made Southwest look better, too, compared to its competitors.
Southwest found a better way of seating passengers — not quite assigned seats, but close enough to eliminate the hour-long exercise of standing in line to board. It added legroom, so the plane feels a lot less like a cattle car. And it refused to add all those junk fees — wow, impressive! — that the other airlines just won’t give up, even though oil prices are one-quarter of what they were when they started imposing all the stupid fees.
One of my sons says “Tripso writers are always whining.” (They’re not, but that’s beside the point.) So allow me to offset that, just a little, by sending compliments to CO and Southwest. In my book, at least, they’ve earned them.