I recently took a trip to from Charlotte to Santiago, Chile.  My wife and I landed in Miami to connect to the flight to Santiago.  While waiting, I noticed that the plane parked at our gate was a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Though riding a plane for more than a few hours is not something I relish, I was excited to ride this plane.  Even with the plane’s initial problems it promised to make the flying experience far better.  The plane promised more headroom, more cabin comfort and, in general, just a better flying experience for the customers.  More expectations were literally “sky high.”

But reality set in!  Yes, the plane had more headroom and there seemed to be fewer “bumps” though that could have been weather.  But I was disappointed not in the technology but in the way the carrier, in this case LAN Airlines, chose to deliver their service when I boarded the plane.

Some observations:

  • Upon entering the plane the cabin crew was smartly attired and friendly, though not more or less than most other airlines.
  • There was more headroom and the ease of getting carry-on baggage stored was easy. I was in coach and LAN management chose to make the distance between seat rows (pitch, I believe) even closer than on a domestic flight.  Now, it is one thing to sit for two hours in a semi-fetal position; it is quite another to do it for eight.
  • Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this flight was the inattentiveness of the flight crew. Even the smart uniforms could not make up for how difficult it was to get a cup of water.  The crew, while courteous, did not seem especially interested in “going the extra mile” to make the flight as pleasure experience as possible for their customers.

Would I fly LAN again?  I would certainly look first for other options.   My experience created disappointment in both the Boeing product and the LAN service experience.  The messages for me were quite clear:

  • When you introduce new technology consider how customer expectations are likely to change as a result.
  • Make certain your customer service product can deliver on these expectations. Making new technology truly effective and a competitive advantage means more than just “putting it out there.”  Consider how customer service can be reinvented with the advent of new technology.

I would be interested to hear about the experiences others have had on the 787.  How much of your experience was influenced by the new airplane or the customer service that accompanied it?


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