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Airlines for America Members Work to Boost Customer Service

By / Dec 17, 2015 (United Airlines)

With the profit picture improving for many airlines, items that were nickel-and-dimed out of the budget are starting to make a comeback. Airlines for America says its members are investing more in passenger services, including in-flight snacks.

Feel like things are getting a little better in economy class these days? It may be the result of smoother currents in the airline industry.

Airlines for America (A4A), the leading trade group representing U.S. airlines, noted earlier this month that its members are becoming more profitable and that, as a result, airlines are improving perks for travelers.

“For the first time in years, airlines now have the financial resources to invest in new aircraft, expand service, improve facilities at airports and offer new in-flight amenities,” the association wrote on its blog, A Better Flight Plan. “Travelers are making the connection between a healthy airline industry and a better flying experience. Investors, including millions of middle-class Americans who hold private pension and retirement plans, are benefiting in the form of healthier 401(k)s and IRAs.”

And it isn’t just A4A talking, either. United Airlines announced recently that beginning in February it will offer free snacks to economy-class passengers, a perk that had disappeared awhile ago.

“We’re refocusing on the big and little things that we know matter to our customers and shape how they feel about their travel experience,” Jimmy Samartzis, United’s vice president of food services and United Clubs, said in a news release.

The comeback of free snacks may not be enough to impress some passengers, however. In recent months the airline industry has been criticized over issues such as shrinking seats and a controversial worldwide standard size for carry-on luggage that was significantly smaller than the bags used by U.S. airlines (and abandoned after being slammed with negative feedback from a number of U.S. politicians.)

And the industry itself is facing some complicating factors. For example, Delta Airlines left A4A over a disagreement about privatizing air traffic control services.

But small additions like snacks could nonetheless provide positive reinforcement for an industry that’s sometimes hard to love but wants you to notice that it’s getting you to your destination a little faster.

“Bringing back free snacks is a relatively small gesture. From a symbolic point of view, though, it’s a highly visible change that may help reverse the perception that United is constantly nickel-and-diming its customers,” wrote Motley Fool contributor Adam Levine-Weinberg. “It could also get skeptical customers to pay closer attention to the other service improvements United has been implementing.”

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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