Fly against the wind: lean false ideas in air transportation

In this summer vacation time, I had the opportunity to take eight flights in the United States with two airlines. Air travel is quite different from the lean vision and customer experience orientation I promote in this blog. Expectations, complexity, delayed flights or luggage are unfortunately the daily life of many travelers. They are aggravated by the bad customer experience that airlines generate, focusing on reducing costs, without solving problems.

The concept of customer experience is nevertheless a point on which companies insist. I propose in this article to look at how they try to improve, but not always according to the principles of lean.

Reduce costs, but not at any cost

One of the « easy » ways to reduce costs, very fast, is to reduce staff. The impact is immediate. The staff is therefore reduced to a minimum. Companies now invite passengers to check in online, by giving all their information, and offer automated terminals at the airport.

This summer I also tested the luggage check by the customer. The terminal scans the passport, prints the boarding passes and labels to stick on the luggage. Then you have to put the luggage on the treadmill. A person is there to help. Of course, instead of spending 10 to 15 minutes with an agent for the entire process, the agent spends less than a minute with us. He just checks that we have correctly placed and stuck our baggage tag. The cost is reduced for the company, but the customer is not always satisfied. Several people were particularly stressed by the process. Indeed they did not master it, and fear their luggage would not arrive.

In addition, customers, who do not know the luggage handling process, do not necessarily stick the labels in the right way or in the right place. This time saving at the counter may generate losses in the other part of the process … Not to mention the stress that turns a bad customer experience.

Minimize delays, without cheating

Airlines have put in place another technique, formidable to reduce delays. The flight time indicated on the documentation provided to the customer is greater than the reality. Even if the plane takes off late, it arrives on time or in advance, it’s magic!

Even if customers are happy to arrive on time, the reasons for delays are not addressed. With the well-known ocean inventory that covers the problem parabola in mind, this technique involves raising the level of the ocean to make sure that the problems under the surface of the water disappear. This is the opposite of lean principles.

Reduce the delivery time of luggage without getting us to Walk

Florent Fouque reported on his blog (French only), a tip that an airport has put in place to reduce the waiting time in front of the carousel baggage. In fact, the handling of luggage is the responsibility of each airport, the airline is a customer of the process, in the same way that it undergoes the process of security of the government.

As customers found that they were waiting for their luggage too long, the airport increased the route to get to the baggage carousel. A ten minute walk more = ten minutes less waiting at the carousel … As a customer, does this meet your needs?

Think about it the next time you are not satisfied. The dissatisfaction is not related to waiting time in front of the carousel. It is rather to the total time required to leave the airport after the plane landed.

Beware of false good ideas. Satisfy a customer by solving his problem, by correcting the source of the problem and not the symptom.

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