I love flying Virgin Blue / Pacific Blue, because they continually remind me that you don’t need to be dull, just because your all competitors are. While most airlines focus on providing a service (A to B, on-time with some food thrown in), Virgin Blue provide a whole experience.
I remember my 1st impression of the Virgin experience, was that more of their staff smiled more often than other airlines. And they made eye contact…as if they were genuinely pleased to see me. This experience continued with safety announcements that were engaging enough to listen to (who says compliance can’t be fun) colourful seat back information cards and unscripted banter.
The point here, is that cheap prices don’t have to mean cheap experiences.
Compare this with the 1st impressions that JetStar passengers have been getting in New Zealand. JetStar launched with lots of cheap or free ticket offers, to gain market interest. But they have been plagued by complaints of long delays, rescheduled flights and bumped passengers.
No doubt JetStar will recover and improve, but their first impressions haven’t aligned with customer expectations. Jetstar took over from parent Qantas, so excuses about untrained staff and strict 30mins check-in cut-offs weren’t what customers expected. What’s more, these experiences are re-setting customer’s expectations in line with the cheap prices. Several people have already said to me “well I can’t complain, the ticket only cost me nine bucks”. Unfortunately, while JetStar see this as just opening offers, customers are starting to see it as a fair price. And while introductory offers can be effective at tempting trial, price alone wont keep them coming back.
Of course, airline service doesn’t have to be great. Ryanair have become very profitable offering overtly ‘cheap service’, to the point of even threatening to charge for toilet visits. But the big difference here, is that their customers are getting exactly what they expect.