David J. Danto


Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion




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The Bank Of Good Will Is Empty, Part 2


I had an interesting flight this past week.   I needed to fly to Austin for a business trip on Saturday.  The only flight that got me in when I needed to be there on the EWR-AUS route was an ERJ-170.  Any regular reader of my blogs knows that I despise regional jets, but the 170 is somewhat bearable – the seat pitch in coach is a little bigger and it has a small first-class section – six seats.  When I looked at the United app on Friday night first class was shown in red as “full,” and as a lowly premier gold million-miler I was number nine on the upgrade list.  That’s essentially a normal experience on United.  In order to get an upgrade on this flight the entire first-class cabin would have to not show up, and three more people on the upgrade list ahead of me would have to ditch the flight in order for me to get that upgrade.

As it turns out I got that upgrade, as did one person behind me on the list.  That’s ten cancellations (that I know of) on an aircraft that holds seventy passengers – and that’s only the elite travelers that I’m able to infer – there were plenty of other open seats on the flight.

My little sample is hardly a scientific poll, but what it says to me is a whole bunch of frequent travelers and/or high-paying customers canceled their trip. 

When I got to my business engagement and chatted with the others attending, everyone described the airports they traversed as “ghost towns.”  My conclusion - people are not flying as much as they usually do.

The global pandemic we’ve all been calling the Corona Virus has reached the US.  It is clearly a human tragedy, with many people sickened and far too many dying, but I’m not going to address the facts of the pandemic in this blog.  Many others have written much better information on the topic than I could even attempt.  This article is purely and unapologetically in the “I told you so” category – for a bunch of reasons.

Firstly, I wrote a blog in 2014 warning businesses to get their remote working / business continuity house in order.  I knew it would only be a matter of time before some breach or pandemic would keep people from traveling.  Many businesses did get prepared and are surviving the crisis by using the remote working strategy I’ve been heralding for years.  Others did not.

Additionally, I wrote another blog a few years ago about my visit to the Freddie Awards where I explained to the travel industry brass assembled that the current state of loyalty programs was unsustainable.  With all the ‘waivers and favors’ removed, and all the benefits of loyalty decimated by a far too greedy industry, I explained in this case as well that it would only be a matter of time before some incident would require airlines to once again desire the good will of the traveling public – which they will find non-existent because of their customer unfriendly practices.  The concluding paragraph of that blog – intended to give options on how to handle loyalty programs going forward – read as follows:

“Nowadays, just about every business in the world is adopting a “put the customer experience first” approach to the future.  The travel and hospitality industry could do the same, with some easy and relatively inexpensive steps.  I doubt that they will – their management is generally too greedy and stubborn.  The second option is to just pull the plug on all of [their false loyalty programs.]  Travelers know that the airlines and hotel chains are lying to them.  It would do less damage to promise nothing and deliver nothing than it does to promise everything and deliver nothing.  I doubt they’ll do that one too.  The third option is most likely the one they’ll choose – to move blindly forward, lying, over-promising and under delivering the most basic of services.  That will seem like the best option to the industry – until whatever the next incident is that causes the stock to drop and credit cards to get cut up.  At that time they’ll once again need to dip into that bank of good will and find it completely empty, having dried up from lack of attention for years and years.  And then, despite my presentation and hundreds of articles like this one from dozens of business travelers who take the time to write, the airline and hospitality industry management will tell the Wall Street investors that no one could have seen it coming.”


So, yeah – this is a tragedy and we don’t know how long it will last or how bad it will be, and yeah – there are far more important concerns than business travel to deal with as we work to survive the pandemic as a society – but the prediction I made is clearly a reality.  Many people have stopped flying, and many more will as well.  Airlines have cancelled routes and postponed hires.  In this new reality, once the crisis passes, airlines will need to dip into the bank of good will to encourage people to once again use their services.  For the most part, all they will find is the hatred and disgust that they’ve sowed in their customers for far too long.  All they had to do is see the warning signs and read thousands of complaints from customers and actually do something about them – do the right thing.  They have only their greed and neglect to blame for the struggles that they will now endure.


This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.

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