You are taking a flight on any airline – it doesn’t matter.  Couple of questions:


  1. Would you rather have an extra couple of inches of leg room, or know you arrive at your destination on time?
  2. Would you rather have a meal, or know your luggage will show up on the baggage carousel when you arrive (undamaged)?


Most of us reading this are aware the airline industry is in tremendous turmoil.  It seems every blog, consumer website and speaker (myself included) tells the woeful stories of the airlines.  But put any feelings (both negative and positive) aside and consider this fact.  According to research fromUniversityofNebraskaandWichitaStateUniversityin their annual Airline Quality Ratings survey, the highest rated customer service airlines are Southwest, Air Tran and JetBlue.  These are the budget airlines, where amenities are literally, in some cases, peanuts, but reliability trumps the major airlines.


Many of us would sacrifice a few amenities to know our flight will arrive on time and our checked bags will show up.  What that means is that we want and value reliability.  It is reliability that defines customer service in the airline industry.


Here is the lesson.  On the surface, most of us would think customer service for an airline comes in the form of amenities; bigger seats, meals, etc.  Of course the employees have to add to the pleasant experience.  However, it turns out that is not what customers want.  They want reliability.  The customer defines what is important.  Do you know what matters most to your customers?  Don’t guess.  Don’t make assumptions.  Find out, and then don’t just meet their expectations.  Exceed them!


Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.  As a professional speaker and author, Shep helps companies develop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  For more information on Shep’s speaking programs and books, please contact (314) 692-2200. Email:  Web: For information on customer service training, go to

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