Waiting for my flight home on Friday, I was struck by the customer disparities that operate in the world of air travel. You mostly see it upon boarding and this sign pretty well sums up the story. If you form your line on the right side of the rope, you are a preferred (elite, gold, platinum, silver, high roller or insert your own moniker) traveller who gets to get on the plane sooner, put your bag away quicker and gain a few more minutes of comfort before the rest of us get to board. According to the sign, we should enter the boarding are on the left side of the rope under “General Boarding”.
For many years, I held Gold Status with one of our now bankrupt airlines, but then lost it one year when I could not accrue enough miles or airline flight segments to qualify for that vaulted status. Given the state of airline flying these days, I don’t miss the effort it took to gain it. However those few perks were certainly nice and helped make the travel a bit more enjoyable.
As I waited for the plane to board, I watched how people behaved around the sign. Realizing that there is absolutely no advantage to walking down the right side of the rope (preferred) or the left side (general) of the boarding corridor, everyone conformed to the appropriate behavior, all of which led to one place…the ticket agent who scanned your boarding pass or smart phone that allowed you to board the plane.
As I waited for Group 2 to be called (I’m not a total loser) I wound up standing near the front of the line but on the “Preferred” part of the rope, along with 6 or 7 other folks. I assumed we would alternate places as we checked in. But as I approached the ticket agent for her to scan my smartphone, she pointed out to me and the others in our line that we were on the wrong side of the boarding line and we all would have to go to the back of the line and start again. With a look of disbelief, I turned to the others and we all collectively shrugged our shoulders and headed to the back of the line.
Now some of you may think that I was getting what I deserved but to me the larger issue is why the airline is creating such a silly and artificial way of trying to make their elite customers feel better about themselves. They already get to get on the plane first, get food if they’re in first class and maybe even get a little bigger seat in coach. But to have them walk down a different side of the check in area seems pretty ridiculous.
Now I try to treat all my customers and clients with equal respect and I usually try to provide equal service to all which might include sending an interesting article to them or providing a little bit of extra value to my services. I don’t think any of them want me to give them a button saying “Great Client” or “Awesome CEO” just so they feel better about themselves.
I’m all over the airlines offering real perks to their elite customers with early access and special 800 numbers, but the rope to nowhere truly misses the point.