Travelers’ woes

The front page of today’s New York Times (subscription required) takes the airline industry to task for a chronic problem that has somewhat incredibly become worse. Titled “Ugly Airline Math: Planes Late, Fliers Even Late”, the article notes “statistics track how late airplanes are, (but) not how late passengers are”. Airlines, particularly in the US, have long since (assuming they ever did) forgotten all notions of service unlike a few eons ago when they epitomized it and were emulated by others including the hospitality industry. Unsurprisingly, besides the red carpet they (literally) laid out on trans-continental flights, most of them arrived within a reasonable range of the promised arrival time. Not so now as the NYT notes that when “researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did a study several years ago and found that when missed connections and flight cancellations are factored in, the average wait was two-thirds longer than the official statistic”. Little wonder that, for those in the business world who can make the jump, private jets and fractional use has soared.

Hoteliers can derive little schadenfreude from the discomfiture of the airlines as operations are frequently at the front (and receiving) end of travelers’ frustrations. Nevertheless, there is clearly an opportunity to (yet again) set ourselves apart by acknowledging the challenges and miseries of airline travel by responding to guest needs when they arrive at the hotel lobby. These range from baggage retrieval services at airport hotels (right now a mere handful such as the Hyatt at Orlando airport offer it) to extending or advancing (as the case may be) arrival and departure times within limits and even if it means pulling out that old chestnut – revitalizing the customer service function with fresh ideas, more training and strong metrics based on customer feedback for performance evaluations.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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