Monday, June 18, 2012

Airlines: From Golden Old Days into Silver Lining Future

CNN started five-week series of The Traveler’s Psyche in late May, the first series “The golden days of air travel” shared the emotions in industry’s ups and down, from luggage styles to flight attendant fashion, air travel did come a long journey: before deregulation in 1978, airline travels was largely to serve wealthy, in last couple of decades, it opened the gates to the masses and pushed the airlines into a more brutally competitive mode, spurring many innovations we now take for granted, though 9/11 took some of the joy out of flying, and the economy has taken a tolls too.

1. The Golden Old Days in Aviation Luxury

 Folks surely missed of an era when the "stewardesses" wore white gloves, served champagne, tournedos rossini, Gateaux Francaise, actual cocktails, wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux on crisp white linen table, when even "coach" had 36" seat pitch, and 2+3 seating on Boeing narrow-bodies….

While many grumble for the "golden old days" of airline travel, as the article pointed out, “their nostalgia usually doesn't include the high prices, limited routes and cigarette smoke clinging to the air”, the sky has no limit, but golden flight had limitation at the old day.

2. The “Pitfalls” at Rocky Road

  Some arguing what led to the downfall of civilized air travel and an often dysfunctional system in the US was not the "democratization" of deregulation - it was the greed that went with it for market share; the leveraged buy outs; the attempted profit expansion by cutting back on and pay-slashing employees, and a lowering of customer service standards.

For the last decade, also a “lost decade”, the industry suffered with the flying fuel, the 18+ taxes, the nature/human disasters, the weather changes,  the outdated legacy technologies such as air traffic system and the impassionate employees with mysterious union culture.

3. The potential Silver Lining for the Future

 Many of us may not experience the good old days, however, we do not lack of passion and imagination for the future of aviation, what can go better, what are the pain point, what do customers really need--not necessarily the old day luxury, but tomorrow's enchantment, more innovation, push & pull to lift up the sky:  

  • Optimize Customer Service
Compared to old day, modern age like today can provide customers more service alternatives to soothe security at check point, to delight customers at touch point and to engage employees at decision point.

The silver lining technology such as cloud, social, mobile and analytics can help airline to listen to customers more deeply, offer customer-tailored service and optimize customer experiences. Modern customers can also make more choices such as self-service check in, on-board entertainment, paperless cabin, and digital collective/rewards  

  • Innovation, Innovation, Innovation
Fair to say, airlines also deserve to make more profit at short term and enjoy long term prosperity if possible, as they are the third robust economic engine of all industrial sectors, and they are also the national economic barometer.  

Besides “safety first” as a motto, aviation also need sow the seeds for culture of innovation: to bridge the world via promoting the positive thinking and actionss; to inspire leadership diversity & encourage staff to take extra miles, and to reap the harvest via the prosperous business activities and global trading. Innovation is the key to re-imagine, re-invent this great industry.

  • Improve Tourism Ecosystem
 Many of issues facing Airline today are beyond control for which any company can deal with alone, or even industry work as a whole can not solve them radically, it takes collective wisdom & effort to work within and above the value chain and ecosystem, to streamline, modernize and advance the business capabilities, focus on strategic matters, and make long term perspectives.  

With better policy support from government, US airlines including both legacy and LCC need work as coopetitors (cooperator & competitor at the same time), to empower talent, not only airline veteran, the industry also need the fresh mind & new blood, people,  process (via innovation, modernization), technologies should work more collaboratively to overcome the barriers.

As a society, we need rejuvenate airline/transportation industry, though many named investors and strategists categorized it as the most complicated, least profitable industry,  it matters, matters for economy, matters for societal advancement, and matters for cheering up fellow citizens. Moreover, if one can solve the most difficult problems first, other issues may also become easier. 

 May the nostalgia of good old days inspires the new passion and energy for aviation, and bring the silver line future for both industry and customers. 


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