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Airlines can avoid customer anger from new fees

Charging for “premium” (read: everything but the middle) seats is the latest tactic legacy airlines and low-cost carriers are implementing to boost revenue,

Delta, American Airlines, US Airways, Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant are among the carriers identified in a CNN article last week as charging customers more money for “desirable” seats. Airlines are marketing the new fees as providing “greater choice and flexibility” and “enabling more passengers to travel in their seat of choice.”

But even a cursory glance at online comments on the article shows that flyers aren’t buying the marketing message.

Comments reveal that being honest about the reasons for the fees would make some customers feel better about their purchase:

Other customers proposed problems that may have not been considered and that might impact even the “premium” experience:

Some provided solutions:

Others demonstrated that carriers who are perceived as not hiding price increases behind new fees are rewarded by evangelism by customers, as in the case of Southwest Airlines:

The common thread (no pun intended) is that consumers want to participate in the discussion. They have no problem paying for service – in fact, they have ideas about how to improve it, how to make it feel more sincere, and how to reward businesses that they feel treat them with respect.

There are many ways to bring customers into the conversation, but when brands don’t, it’s obvious.

Private online customer communities provide a platform for some of the richest, most textured, collaborative feedback you can get. Active Listening, which we’ve described as participatory social media monitoring, is another great way to invite consumers to react. Ideation tools like IdeaScale are more limited in scope and application, but provide a low-cost way in. Even reading – and officially reacting to – comments like those in the CNN article can help.

What you should never do, though, is implement or market changes in a customer vacuum.


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