This is the sixth and final post on our recent trip to Africa.  To see the our other posts, click here.  I’m writing this blog on a business trip, sitting in the middle row of a packed plane.  I’ve just been offered a drink for a cost of two dollars, and I paid $15 or $25 or something to check my bag.  The gate was full of people willing to pay extra to upgrade to larger seats, but there weren’t any available.  The new bag check fee has created an unintended side effect where frequent travelers will attempt to carry on more luggage than ever before, in part because they might save a fee and in part because they won’t get charged if they can get it to the jetway and be told there that it has to be checked.  As a result, my recent flights have experienced phenomena where some travelers load the overhead with more carry ons than before, and those who aren’t the first to board then have their baggage taken from them.

We all wish the best for the American airline industry, but .. wow.  This is clearly an industry whereresearch could help them maximize revenue while also improving customer satisfaction.  And it doesn’t appear to be happening.  Overall satisfaction has sunk to a three year low in a recent J.D. Power report.

Our flights in Africa were with South Africa Airways and Air Madagascar, and I must say that we were impressed.  They offered legroom that a normal human would consider reasonable, and we even got food.  I’m not just talking about food on the 18-hour flight over there, either.  I’m talking about food on 50-minute puddle jumper flights, food on regional transfers of under an hour.  Free headphones, flights that weren’t jammed, and good service.  Okay, there was one ticket snafu that I think briefly put me on Madagascar’s Terrorist threat list, but even that meant that I got to skip the big passport approval line, and it was taken care of before any prison time was involved.  Photo: African airlines have it figured out, even if the destinations aren’t the most common.

Are the domestic airlines really listening to their customers?  When I see a line of people willing to pay for upgrades that aren’t available, and the counter agent noting that it happens every week, I wonder why the strategists aren’t working to accommodate this market demand.  More money, and more customer satisfaction.  I know it’s easy to pick on the airlines, but come on.  E-mail me, you CEOs, and I’ll help you figure it out.