Are You Giving Your Customers The Royal Treatment?

We just returned from vacation. We used our frequent flyer miles for two of our three airline tickets. My regular, “go-to” airline put us on another carrier for the first leg of our trip. Big mistake on their part.

First, let me tell you about the third ticket we also booked (not using frequent flyer miles) on my “go-to” airline.

The day before we left, I did the online check-in for the third ticket which was for my daughter. An option came up where I could upgrade her ticket to first class for $69. The first class seat included two “free” bags. Since the cost of bags was $20 each on this airline, the upgrade would really only be $29. I thought this would be a nice surprise treat for her and booked it.

When we got to the airport the next day, her flight had been canceled (there were storms and many flights had delays). She was re-routed to the flight that we were on, which actually worked out great. However, her seat was in coach.

I called the “go-to” airline after we got checked in and all three phone numbers I had gave me a recorded message that they couldn’t answer any calls at this time. I tried again later in the day and got the same message. I figured I would inquire at the airport on our return.

Now, let me go back to first part of the story. We probably go on about 12-16 flights per year and I would say 90% of the time we use the same airline. I know this is not a tremendous amount of travel but our loyalty has always been with this airline.

So, here we are redeeming our frequent flyer miles and they put us on another carrier. Hmm…I’m thinking they must have an arrangement with the other carrier where they pay them less for those seats than what they could get for the seats on their flight. This way they’re not “losing” on our “FREE” seats.

But then I’m thinking the marketing department of the other airline must know this too because they bumped us up to FIRST CLASS! How smart is that? They are treating us like the loyal customers we are and we don’t even use them. Of course, all this may not be true but it sure seems ironic, doesn’t it? I have never once been upgraded to first class on my regular airline.

They also did not charge for our bags. Another huge plus. That saved us $60 on the way down.

But on the way back, we were back on our regular airline. Back to coach. Back to paying $20 per bag. When we checked in, I inquired about the first class upgrade charge/flight cancellation from the trip down and was told I needed to call Customer Care.

When they weighed my bag it was 7 pounds over their limit, another $50. Are they crazy? $70 for my bag to fly to Cleveland? Not a chance. Took out a couple pairs of shoes, a few books and we were back to $20.

After check-in, I attempted to call Customer Care only to be told that I need to call Monday through Friday between 8am-5pm. Not, “I see you are a frequent flyer with us, let me take your name and number and have someone get back with you.” All the burden is on me. Maybe they think I will get frustrated with their inability to give anyone authority to handle customer situations and give up on the $69.

But that’s where they are wrong. The only thing I am giving up on is them. I will now pay extra to fly any other airline, especially the one that treated us like a valued customer.

The moral of the story: Give your loyal customers the royal treatment they deserve. If you don’t, your competition gladly will.

Author: Kathy Jiamboi

Owner of Creativedge Marketing, where growth-oriented dentists find dental practice marketing strategies and advice to take their practice to a new and higher level.


  1. Great post Cathy. Was your regular airline Continental? Just wondering. It is funny how customer loyalty is too often taken for granted. Seems the big guys are too big to care. I have certainly found that to be the case in dealing with ATT vs. some of the smaller internet and cable providers. I changed carriers.

  2. Yep. Continental. I used to really like them too but like you said they seem as though they’re just too big to care. I envision one day soon that we will be able to fly ourselves where ever we want to go and won’t need them as much. It will be a sad day for them much like it is for newspapers today.

  3. Hey Lisa,
    Nice to hear from you. Hope you are enjoying the holidays as well!
    I guess when you get to be a big company you easily lose touch of reality and what’s important to your customers. They have so many layers to customer satisfaction. I spent 59 minutes on the phone yesterday to make sure I was refunded the $69. Probably “on hold” for 57 of the 59 minutes and transferred to 3 different people. They could have easily handled this situation with a simple email to let me know a credit was issued due to the flight cancellation but instead would rather get me all crazy and blogging about it. Hope you have a prosperous 2010, Lisa!

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