Airlines continue to cut service

Although we are by no means experts in virology, we can tell you one thing about COVID-19: it is a virus that is used an easy excuse. The same goes for “customer reviews”.

We have followed the resumption of the activities of the airlines since the end of spring by following the degradation of service that the sanitary constraints implied for them. This gave birth to the DEGRAD-19 barometer. It was an opportunity to realize that the same constraints did not have the same consequences for everyone and that some companies were taking advantage of the health context to cost-cut under the pretext of self-imposed constraints.

A few weeks later the second edition of DEGRAD-19 let us think that things were going in the right direction and that the return to normal was close (in spite of some recalcitrant cases).

We thought we could stop there but we had to face the facts: we had to make a third edition which we are working on right now.

Too hygienic to be true

The problem is simple and shared with the editors in charge of all the travel blogs with whom we regularly exchange.

1°) The pandemic requires constant vigilance and the utmost rigor from the airlines.

2°) Rules have been set by States and even international bodies, which cannot be said to be minimum rules. To comply with it purely and simply is the line to be held knowing, moreover, that the environment of a plane is much less favourable to the propagation of a virus than our daily life on the ground.

3°) Some airlines have gone much further and this is what interests us.

To put it differently, when two airlines from neighboring countries, living in the same context, being as rigorous as each other, propose, for one, a normal service, for the other, a degraded or absent service, it is only one step to think that we are dealing with cost-cutting under sanitary motive and not with a real sanitary safety measure.

As proof of this, the differences noted between what the airlines impose and what the regulations impose on them only affect the service and are never manifested in an economically neutral measure that does not represent a saving for the airlines.

Cost-cutting is a totally legitimate and logical measure

Let’s be clear: we find it totally legitimate that in the current context airlines control their costs as much as possible, even if they also have to preserve the future and take care of their loyal customers. Besides, in their place, it is not at all inconceivable that we would have taken the same decisions, perhaps even more radically.

What is not legitimate or understandable is

1°) We will cut the service but nothing to do with cost-cutting due to the virus

2°) The medium-haul service is eliminated to reduce interactions but not on the long-haul. Is the virus more wanderer on a Paris-Madrid than on a Paris-New York?

3°) We reduce the service to reduce interactions. Giving a drink is not dangerous, giving a drink and a sandwich is.

4°) We replace glass and cups by cardboard to avoid the propagation of the virus. Should we deduce that you will save money on cleaning the dishes or that you didn’t clean them before?

Cost-cutting is therefore legitimate, even necessary, and totally audible when presented as such: an economic measure. Under the guise of sanitary measures it is taking customers for fools. And even more so when, contrary to a few months ago, these measures are less and less announced as preventive and fair information, presented discreetly here or there.

Some recent examples that we will talk about soon.

Air France: a glass of water and that’s it

From now on, and for an undetermined period of time, Air France will only offer its medium-haul passengers a glass of water and nothing else. In Economy and Business.

It was one of our readers who alerted us because the measure passed very quietly.

Well no, it was not a health measure but an economic measure due to the suppression of a staff member in the cabin.

Moreover, Air France’s community managers seem to be uncomfortable explaining this.

To be sure, let’s go to the Air France website

So London and Amsterdam are short and Frankfurt is medium haul? Ah well finally one does not know any more. I am desperately trying to understand why the virus is more contagious on a Paris-London trip than on a Paris-Rome trip but I can’t find it.

We also notice that if at the beginning of the summer it was necessary to click from the home page to have the details of the sanitary measures and their impact on the service, the banner has disappeared from the home page and it is now necessary to dig a little to have access to this type of information.

We don’t ask if the price of the ticket evolves accordingly of course…

No more free snacks in economy on Lufthansa Group short/medium-haul flights!

This was one of the other recent announcements. As of spring, Lufthansa’s economy passengers will no longer have free snacks on short-haul flights.

This measure is already effective on Swiss and Brussels Airlines.

What to think about it?

Here everything seems to say, considering the dates, that it is not a sanitary measure. But let’s call a spade a spade, cost cutting is still cost cutting and let’s not be told that the long term financial impact of the pandemic is not a factor.

This seemed to be “in the pipeline” for a while.

In other words, “we were doing bad for free, so we’re moving to paying for everything”. And is doing good for free an idea that has crossed the minds of the airline’s strategists?

Here again we understand the legitimacy of a quality “buy on board” offer. Besides, it was one of the strong points that we finally found in the now defunct Joon (in addition to its really adorable staff): finally, it was better to have a good “BoB” on Joon than the Air France snack simulacrum in medium haul.

But this reasoning does not hold up in the face of the premium positioning of the two airlines and an almost equivalent ticket price between Air France and Joon, and which we cannot imagine decreasing (the future will tell) on Lufthansa.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a “decent” free offer and a more premium “BoB” offer for those who want it? Let’s be frank and admit that COVID is forcing a revision of the service offer for economic reasons.

If Lufthansa (which we like very much by the way) keeps its 5 Skytrax stars, it is impossible to understand.

Far from here, others are improving their service…

During the 2nd edition of DEGRAD-19 we were disappointed by Singapore Airlines but things seem to be getting better there.

In a recent press release the airline announced that :

“Singapore Airlines (SIA) and SilkAir will offer a wider choice of main courses on flights of less than 3.5 hours from 1 December 2020, offering customers a wider variety of local Singaporean and international favourites on these routes as part of its new economy class dining concept.

More than 40 new dishes will be available in rotation on various flights, including Singapore favorites such as congee, laksa and gravy-rich mee siam that were not previously available in economy class.”

A real improvement compared to “before” COVID.

Finally a good news that shows that when one wants one can. And when you can’t afford it, it’s better to say it frankly than to hide behind a virus or a biased interpretation of customer reviews.

Photo : budget cuts by kenary820 via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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