POSTED BY: Mary Helow

Why I will choose your competitor over you

3rd Jan, 2019
Customer is king

Why I will choose your competitor over you

Putting your customer first truly makes a difference

On a recent trip to the US, I was exposed to 2 very different experiences from the same American airline. For whatever reason, the ticket purchased did not include a checked bag (on an international flight – are you kidding me?), nor did it allow me to choose a seat without shelling out €113 or €190 depending on location. Instead, it was left to the seat selection gods at check-in. Well, it didn’t work in my favour – I got the middle row with people on both sides.

And €50 to check my bag (yes that’s both ways). Ugh.

While checking in I asked the Dublin ticketing agent if the flight was full and whether I could possibly change my seat for one by a window. She gave me a large smile, confirmed it wasn’t full and gave me a window seat, plus the one beside it. While I went from aisle 10 (at online check-in) to aisle 36, I didn’t mind….I had room to stretch and snooze, so happy out.

I asked if it was possible to get the same assistance on my return to Dublin and with the same smile she responded, ‘it depends who you get at check-in.’ My day even got better – as I was boarding the plane, they swapped out my boarding pass for a new one that took me from row 36 to row 8. I’ve no idea why but the wine was flowing the whole journey at no cost. Result.

Fast forward 3 days to a Florida airport. I asked at check-in whether I could possibly get a better seat on the flight home to enhance my chance of catching some z’s on my overnight (red-eye) flight. The attendant smiled nicely and said ‘of course but the cost is €113 for the standard window seat and €190 for the premium.’ Apparently, the premium seats get you closer to the exit and include complimentary wine (ah, now I get it). I did mention that my outbound trip was made significantly nicer by the kindness of an airline employee to which he smiled and said ‘well, they’re not supposed to do that.’

While I’m entirely sure it’s protocol, one person’s assistance made a monumental difference to my day and practically none to hers.

While my return flight wasn’t packed (despite being told it was) I was convinced to pay €10 for a seat close to the front (middle row on the aisle) which would allow me to quickly move to the two vacant window seats next to me as soon as the doors closed. On the previous leg, the agent just gave me these seats, no bother. In the end, I got the seats but walked away thinking….if the second leg had gone as smoothly as the first, I’d have been overjoyed with this airline. I would have started on their website to book my next flight (I typically go state-side 3 or 4 times per year) rather than starting with our own national airline. Going out of your way to make your customer happy, comfortable, relieved, pampered and/or valued is what they want. And it’s often easier than you think.

This experience has greatly impacted my view of an airline I’ve flown with for decades. While American airlines often have better perks, maybe Aer Lingus ain’t so bad after all.


Mary Helow, Senior Account Director

Mary called San Francisco home until 2005 but prefers the cobblestone streets of Dublin. Her loves are understanding what makes a brand tick, Star Trek (Captain Kirk is king, she says) and any type of Mexican food she can get her hands on.