Last week I had to fly US Airways. I wasn’t happy about it. As some of you may know, I’m a 100K flyer on United Airlines. I’m at “Princess” status with them. I love United. They have a code share program with US Airways, which means I will get credit for the miles flown, but not my princess status. As I was using the electronic check-in at the airport a screen popped up with the magic question: “Would you like to upgrade to first class?” Well, of course I would. I pressed the button and up pops a screen asking me to insert my credit card. Turns out this upgrade will cost me $100.00. I paused. How bad do I need the love? It’s early so it will be a breakfast flight. Am I willing to pay $100.00 for an airline breakfast? (side note: I have to admit, some of the United breakfasts are pretty darned good). I decided to treat myself.
I boarded first and was immediately aware of how dirty the plane was. You could tell the leather seats had been ridden hard. The pillows looked used (okay — I know those pillows are total germ buckets but in my world they’ve been sanitized as soon as someone puts a new pillow case on there — free of creases). These pillows had creases. The blanky was not in the little plastic bag, like I’m used to, nor were the headphones hermetically sealed. Not impressed.
Would I like something to drink before we take off? Most certainly. I got a bottle of water practically tossed at me. No ice. No glass.
Seat belt sign has gone off, the screens are lowered……and then it begins. Advertisements. Commercials. One right after another!! No promise of entertainment and no choice but to hear them because they are going over the main speakers!!! Finally it ends and down the aisle comes the flight attendant. He’s got a little basket and is asking passengers if they’d like a snack. This morning snack consisted of bags of chips, pretzels, cookies and I heard him say nuts. It’s 6:30 in the morning. No one should be eating this stuff at all — ever — but I’m now aware that this IS breakfast! I decide I’m going for the nuts. When the basket comes to me — the nuts are gone. I take nothing. I get a bad cup of coffee in a styrofoam cup. The $100.00 cup of Joe. Even Starbucks knows better than to charge that much.
The video screens are now alternating between advertisements for US Airways flights and trivia questions. No movie. No in-flight entertainment. THEN the most horrible thing happened. Our flight attendant (peanut promiser) gets on the PA and is clearly reading this super long advertisement message for the US Airways VISA card. And if you sign up today — ON THIS FLIGHT — you will get 25,000 miles, or a free airline ticket for any flight in the contiguous 48 states. The details of this VISA card go on and on and on. Then “basket boy” comes down the aisle repeating this scripted phrase, “Would you like a free ticket today?” waving the applications like the kids on street corners in Vegas do with the girly show tickets. Yikes!!! I was so embarrassed for him and for US Air. I know they are in bankruptcy. It’s pretty clear. But there’s got to be a better way to rebuild.
Brand is your reputation. Everything you do, whether you intend it or not, is your brand. I’m sure the number crunchers of US Airways cooked up this little scheme to make a few bucks. As far as I could tell, no one on the plane took them up on the VISA offer. I paid $100.00 extra for my flight to be held captive in an info-mercial. I will NEVER fly them again. The modern marketer knows you cannot beg for business anymore. Now you have to earn it. US Airways could learn a lesson from United. When they were in Chapter 11 they refused to cut back on any perks for their frequent flyers. They knew they could not afford to lose one of us. US Air is stepping over dollars to pick up pennies in my opinion.
Best part of the story — when I got up to get OUT — I found a peanut wedged in the cushion of my seat.

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