Pretzel Logic: Airline Snacks Make a Comeback

“After 15 years of near austerity, U.S. airlines are restoring some small perks for passengers crammed into coach,” reports The Washington Post. “Don’t expect ample legroom or free checked bags. But fliers will find improved snacks, a larger selection of free movies and — on a few select routes — the return of free meals.”

“This month, American will start offering Biscoff cookies or pretzels to passengers flying between New York and San Francisco or Los Angeles. By April, those snacks will expand to all other domestic routes. In May, American will bring back full meal service for coach passengers between Dallas and Hawaii.”

“These are token investments in the passenger experience that will not cost airlines a lot of money but are small ways to make passengers a little bit happier,” says Henry Harteveldt, the founder of travel consultancy Atmosphere Research Group. “American and United realized: We don’t let other airlines have an advantage on price, why let them have one on pretzels.”


Going Mental At The Car Rental

Customers can have very different car-rental experiences at Payless and Budget even though both are owned and run by Avis Budget Group, according to The New York Times. David Segal, writing in the newspaper’s “Haggler” column, relays two high-contrast anecdotes. The first, involving Payless, is the story of a 50-minute wait and then driving off in a “filthy” car only after arm-twisting a supervisor to get any car at all.

Filing a complaint afterwards via Twitter yielded no response, an email resulted only in a bounced message, and an online service-desk inexplicably pronounced the issue “closed.” An apology was received and a full refund promised only because The Times intervened.

Meanwhile, a Budget customer who was given “a car smaller than the one he reserved” didn’t have to make a fuss or ask for anything. He simply described his bad experience in a routine customer-satisfaction survey. The next day, he received an email with an apology and promise of a refund check for the price difference. In other words: “One part of this company is taking care of consumers; the other is ignoring them. The secret to good service is no secret to the Avis Budget Group. It is just a secret that nobody bothered to share with Payless.”


How United Airlines Became “Less Awful”

Bringing back free snacks in Economy class and upgrading the coffee are central to United Airlines’ efforts to reintroduce itself to customers, reports Bloomberg Business. “More fundamentally, United is reexamining the way it boards planes.” The airline “came up with a system with only two main lanes: one for the group currently boarding and one for the group that was next. To preserve the prerogative of late-arriving priority passengers, a ‘bypass’ lane was added.”

United is also re-designing its routes, moving from “linear routing” that “maximizes the hours each aircraft is in the air full of revenue-generating customers, but bad weather at one airport can cause delays and cancellations among numerous routes.” It now uses more “out-and-back” routing and “also increased the amount of time budgeted for turning planes around.”

“Recent months have seen marked improvements in United’s performance. Its on-time and missed-connections metrics over the past few months have been the best since the merger. Its rates for mishandled baggage are also sharply down … New planes have steadily been replacing older ones. And fliers are happier: Internal customer satisfaction scores were better in 2015 than in 2014, better in the fourth quarter of 2015 than in the third, and in December were the highest in two years.”