Over the last 20 years, we experienced a total change in the way on how people travel. There are several reasons for that, the internet allowing everyone to get more and better information about potential destinations, websites and applications that help you to book your trip easily and also, the rise of the so called “low cost airlines” which allow travelers to reach many more places within a reasonable budget.
This picture below represents the evolution of traditional airlines and low cost airlines. (Source: Eurocontrol)
You can read more about it at the Eurocontrol report.
I am sure you are flying with them too. Easyjet, Ryanair, Vueling, Wizzair…Sometimes, they aren’t that low cost anymore and every time, they try to charge you at any chance they have. From choosing your seat, to extra leg-room, drinks, food, extra cabin baggage, etc… At the beginning, this affected a bit customer experience but as people expectations were clear, they just got used to it and accepted the rules. “If you fly cheap, don’t expect good service” many people assume.
Basically, if you fly with any of them, you know that this is how it works and you need accept it. Not so long time ago, Ryanair decided to charge people 60 Euros for printing their boarding pass at the check-in counter. This was very controversial and so bad for their customer experience that even if they didn’t focus on their customers at all, they got rid of that initiative after a while.
Today, we see that traditional airlines are also making those changes and progressively charging for things that were always included in their flights. This is causing them a lot of bad marketing, especially in social media networks, damaging their brands and customer experience.
I fly with low cost airlines and I am sure you do too. Especially because for short flights I don’t really mind where I am sitting, or if I have a drink included or not, or if they charge extra for checking in your bag as I only carry a cabin one.
When it comes to choosing your seats, if I fly alone I don’t really care. The issue is if I fly with my family: my wife and my two kids.
I fly several times a year with Vueling. Not that I like it that much, but sometimes it is my only option. Especially if we just fly to have a break with the family, as it is not easy to go to where I am from in the north of Spain.
Normally, when you are booking your flight, in our case four tickets, and you decide not to choose your seat, they would automatically assign you the four seats. If possible, all of them will be in the same row. Basically, you would get A, B, C and D seats at row 28 as an example. Always at the rear part of the plane.
Only in rare circumstances, when you tried to check in too late for that flight and it wasn’t possible anymore, they would put you in separate rows. Again, this was pretty strange and if you tried to check in online a reasonable time in advance, you wouldn’t have any issue.
Apparently, something may have changed, at least with Vueling. The last two times I booked a flight with them this year, trying to check in online as usual, they put two of us on one row and the other two on a different one. Not to far from each other, but in separate rows with a couple of them in between us. The first time I thought it was unfortunate. Maybe so many people checked in online ahead of me that they didn’t have any more options.
But the second time it really got my attention and I could see there were still rows available where they could put the four of us together. But they didn’t. This made me think. Is this a new airline strategy?
Obviously, when you are a family and you are travelling with kids, you are more keen to travel together right? So, in this case, it is an easier upsell! Today, when airlines are trying to get more money out of sitting you anywhere on the plane but many people don’t care and don’t pay that extra money, this could be a move from them to focus on an easy target.
At the end of the day, they also play with us with seasonality, don’t they? In those times of the year like in Christmas, no matter how early you book your flight, it will cost your 3 or 4 times more than usual. Just because they know they will sell most of the tickets anyway, just out of the need of people to go back home to see their families. Which brings up another topic…why we should allow them to charge so much more for exactly the same service taking advantage of people’s need? Maybe we can discuss about that one on a different moment.
Anyway, I don’t really know if what they did to me with my seats it is a new strategy or just a coincidence, but it really impact customer experience in a negative way. Did this happen to you recently? What do you think about it? Please share your thoughts and insights below!