November 11, 2013
Flying often sucks. It’s expensive. The seats are small (no matter how I sit, my knees bump the seat in front of me). The lines are long. And while passengers are charged out the wazoo to make changes to their flights, airlines do it all the time without any consequences. It could be argued that these issues—and others—are unavoidable growing pains. The industry is growing and changing at a crazy rate. Adjusting to those large scale changes would be tough and expensive, especially when you throw in unexpected things like weather.
But across the board, every airline could be doing more to make the passenger’s experience better. Even little, inexpensive changes would forgive many of the wrongs that are out of the airline’s control. Here is an example of how one airline consistently makes an effort to pack positive brand impressions and good customer service into every nook and cranny of the flying experience. Surprise surprise, they use video and design to do it.
Virgin America: these guys are the kings of little touches. When you walk on the plane, the light is low and has a calming blueish hue to it. Somehow, the cabin feels a little bigger and less claustrophobic. Every seat has a screen in the headrest—even on short flights—and the options for on-demand entertainment are nearly limitless. You can also use the little screen to order and pay for food and drinks. Last time I flew with them, I didn’t want the 2 hour trip to end.
Now, they’ve redesigned yet another aspect of the flight: the safety video. I’ve seen some creative approaches to the safety video before. Until now, however, they were just polished versions of the same old thing. This one’s different. It doesn’t just give the required FAA spiel. It’s entertainment—full of singing, dancing, funny kids and one-liners. The video isn’t perfect. It’s a little long, and some of the jokes fall flat. But, it uses a universally ignored opportunity to create a powerful positive impression.
I expect it will be a long time (if ever) before flying is a perfect experience. And nothing other than policy changes could remove the hatred I have for the double standards that most airlines force on their customers. But, if they can’t guarantee that every flight will be on time, or give me more leg room, they can buy a good bit of patience and good will by showing me a cool video that says to me, “You’re a real person. You paid a lot of money for your seat in this flying aluminum tube and we know the experience isn’t always perfect.” But, forget about all of that for now. I want to enjoy this entertaining video that might also save my life.