The recent increase in travel has produced unwanted results of flight cancellations, crowded flights, and angry passengers.
In finding ways to accommodate these situations, airlines have turned their attention to their customers.
The San Diego Business Journal’s List of Airlines Serving Lindbergh Field features 17 airlines with total number of passengers carried in and out of San Diego at 15,540,545 from January to June. San Diego’s Lindbergh Field is bustling with a 3.5 percent passenger rate, ranking it slightly above the 2 percent national average.
“Airlines are increasing the size of their aircrafts to meet market demands,” said Rita Vandergaw, director of marketing and public relations for the Port of San Diego.
Airlines such as British Airways, No. 15 on The List, increased its fleet mix or size of planes, to handle a larger number of passengers and allow for more flights to various airports. The change in fleet mix has brought a decrease in the number of flights in and out of San Diego and helped alleviate some of the congestion on the airport’s one runway.
“It’s more economical and allows airlines to have greater flexibility on how to serve their customers,” Vandergaw said.
Fleet expansion also makes for a more satisfied customer, according to Dale Morris, manager of corporate communications for American Airlines, No. 3 on The List. “American is always in an ongoing training mode to help our customers,” Morris said. “We shoot for 100 percent satisfaction.”
One of the ways American is ensuring customer satisfaction is through its “More Room in Coach” project.
Announced in February, the $400 million refurbishment plan removes the last two rows from coach, expanding the entire coach cabin. American has already completed its entire domestic fleet of Boeing 767s and Airbus 300s and will reach full completion, including their international carriers by fall of 2001.
“More leg room makes for a happier customer,” Morris said.
The newest airline on the block, seven year-old, Frontier Airlines, No. 13 on The List is also undergoing fleet transitions. Beginning in May 2001, Frontier will begin transitioning their 25 Boeing 737s to Airbus A318 and 319 aircraft. While the Airbus aircraft will still carry the same 131 passengers as the Boeing, the fuselage of the Airbus is seven inches wider.
Changing one plane a month, Frontier plans to be finished with the transition by December 2004. The new planes mean first-time ownership for the airline, which is leasing the Boeing fleets.
“We’ve kept the Airbus aircrafts at a single class configuration and kept the business model simple to keep costs down for all sides,” said Elise Eberwein, vice president of communications for Frontier.
With air rage incidents drawing greater attention to delayed flights and jam-packed planes, Frontier has focused more attention on its customer relations.
Eberwein said they’ve instituted in-depth employee training that concentrates on conflict resolution and brings a heightened awareness to customers’ needs to allow for smoother transactions.
Service to the consumer is a top priority for Southwest Airlines, No. 1 on The List. “We consider ourselves the customer service advocate in the air agency,” said Kristin Nelson, public relations spokeswoman for the airline. Nelson said Southwest is hiring more employees to keep up with the rising market.
“We hire people for their personalities and make sure they are well-rounded enough to handle all encounters.”
Southwest’s attention to customer service has resulted in great success. The U.S. Department of Transportation has ranked the airline No. 1 in customer satisfaction for nine consecutive years.
“It’s important to us to always be better and not complacent,” Nelson said.