A CBC news posting about Air Canada’s plans to police more stringently carry on bag sizes over the coming busy summer air travel months caught my eye this week. Anyone who travels regularly will relay increased frustration with the time delays and sometimes comical attempts to stuff big bags into the overhead carry on space in an attempt to avoid the fee airlines now charge for checked bags. I posted the article on Facebook with a simple suggestion that they should flip the model; charge a fee for the carry on and make the first bag checked free. I noted it would rid the airlines of the crazy delays caused by the inevitable need to check some bags at the gate, plus the practice would essentially allow business travelers, largely the traditional carry on crowd, to pay for the service of keeping their bag in sight so it doesn’t get lost, have a quick exit from the airport, and the overall ability to keep flights running on time. I’m willing to bet that the masses would once again flock to the cargo hold with their ballooning bags if it was a cost savings.
The problem would be solved.
My posting received significant likes and subsequent engagement on numerous occasions throughout the week speaking with colleagues. Challenging the industry, now global default convention, would allow Air Canada to stand out as an innovator. As it stands they will most certainly beg a backlash as customers who are turned around at security by the bag police, hit social media in an angry state. Doesn’t anyone at the airline understand the power of the wired consumer these days? And more importantly the role that customers service now plays in marketing?
I can almost predict the Twitter hashtags now: #stuffitAirCanada #AirCanada #GetStuffed or #IgotStuffed. I suspect it could gain the same traction as #IgotRouged or #AirCanada #rouged following the airlines switch of some pleasure traveler flights to smaller leg room Air Canada Rouge discount flights, which caught some pre-booked business travelers off guard. Got a clever suggestion? Post it here! Let’s start a hashtag movement. You know it’s going to happen…
Sometimes it’s advisable to step back from industry practices and do things differently. Samoa Air challenged convention by charging passengers for air travel based on their weight. Yes, you read that correctly! Admittedly they had a monopoly on the market, and could take such drastic measures to solve a flight weight issue problem in their small aircraft being used. I’m not sure this would be a popular solution in the US, given the general propensity to tip the scale generously, but boy would it ever garner a following of the skinny travelers! Just think, an airline you could actually use the armrest on. The mind boggles… Read more about the Samoa Air example here. Not only did the Samoa Air example disrupt the conventional model, they gained a tremendous marketing opportunity because it allowed the company to stand out and get onside with the customer – OK, the skinny ones I guess!
Meanwhile, Delta is trying to speed up boarding times by pre-loading carry on bags above passengers seats on some flights. The idea has attracted the attention of the Australian press. Link here to read more. Basically they are hinging a bet that they can be more efficient then customers at loading bags, and can deal with the need to check oversize bags on the spot without delaying flights. If executed well, it could also introduce an element of old fashioned air travel class to the experience of being transported in a large sardine can in the sky. Given the article quotes a cost of $40 for every minute the aircraft sits idle at the gate, this move, if it sped things up, could save the airline a lot of money over the course of a year. It might also solve that pesky problem of that guy seated at the back of the plane dumping his bag in your overhead up front as he passes through.
At the root of all of these examples is the need to solve a problem creatively and cost effectively. Sometimes the best way to do that is to challenge convention and disrupt your industry!