I was boarding a flight from Santiago, Chile to Atlanta when I noticed a group of disgruntled passengers milling around the gate area. It turned out that the airline had overbooked the flight for consecutive days, and as a result they were routinely bumping paid customers just before boarding time. In fact, several of the people I spoke with had waited two extra days to get back to the US. Fortunately, I was not impacted.
Now I know we’re all given notice on our tickets that we are subject to being denied access due to overbooking, and I also understand that passengers often cancel their plans at the last moment leaving empty seats. But the solution is not to overbook and involuntarily deny boarding to passengers who have played according to the rules when the next flight out (also overbooked) is scheduled for 24 hours later.
Surely, there have to be other solutions to the problem of “no shows.” What about instituting higher financial penalties for those who cancel their reservations without a valid reason (such as a missed connection, illness, or documented emergency)? I can’t imagine keeping a client if I wrote in a contract “Even though I’m taking your money and you act in good faith, you may be denied service due to overbooking on my part.” It just isn’t good customer relations.
You may think that this type of behavior is unique to the airlines, but I’ve noticed the same type of laissez-faire attitude towards customers in grocery stores, department stores, and other types of businesses. Example: if you claim to stock an item, have it in stock where people can find it.
Especially in a down economy, we’re all looking for ways to attract and retain customers. Loyalty schemes are well and good, but the best way to keep a customer loyal is to make sure you’re delivering on the service you’ve promised.