Our Erie injury law blog is mostly populated with stories about Pennsylvania accident, injury and medical malpractice legal topics, as it should be. But sometimes we venture off topic. This off-topic rant is inspired by my family’s recent trip out of the country (a vacation to celebrate my in-laws’ 50th anniversary) and our experience with the way airlines treat their customers.
Our experience with the airline began when we claimed our e-tickets at the automated station outside the baggage check area. After going through the routine inquiries, the machine asked us if we’d like to upgrade our experience for only $20 per ticket (for our family of five, the upgrade would cost $100). The machine promised us we’d experience preferential loading on the plane. We declined the upgrade.
Later, when they began to allow customers to board the plane, the customer service personnel announced over the PA system that they would allow first class passengers to board first. A short time later, they announced that members of their frequent flyer club who were at the platinum or gold level were welcome to board. Then frequent flyers club members who were sapphire or whatever were welcome. Then flyers who’d purchased the upgrade (the $20 per ticket upgrade we’d just declined) were welcome to board. Then they instructed passengers to look on their ticket for their zone number. They welcomed customers in Zone 1. We were Zone 4. Zone 4, it turned out, was the last to board as we learned in watching the waiting area thin out while waiting to be called for boarding.
My little family was in good humor. We were starting a vacation and it never much mattered to us when we got on the plane. We figured we’re all going to get there at the same time. But we couldn’t help but notice the tiered treatment being doled out to the assembled passengers. We joked that we, as Zone 4 flyers, were the least valuable of the airline’s customers. “Zone 4 ticket holders, you are the lowest of the low and we don’t really care one jot about you, but you may now board the plane,” we imagined they’d announce.
Of course, the airline didn’t take swipes at us when they announced our boarding but it was impossible to miss the message the airline sent. “Some of you are more valuable to us than others,” they said to their customers. “We’ll demonstrate our preferences in petty little differences in treatment because we think those petty perks and disses will make those of you who pay more feel better about having paid the extra price and will encourage the rest of you to pony up,” they said.
This process repeated itself at three airports and two different airlines. It really wasn’t disheartening to us. We joked about our status at the bottom of the airline caste system. But I thought about it in terms of a service provider’s relationship with customers. I talked to my partner, Erie injury lawyer Tim George, about it when we returned from our vacation. We agreed that we would never, ever, institutionalize a practice that intentionally told some customers that they weren’t as important to us as others.
The takeaway is simple. No matter how large or small your case, regardless of the fee being paid, injured people in northwestern Pennsylvania can count on one thing. At Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C., if we accept professional responsibility for your case, you’ll always get first class treatment.
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