As it appeared in the Daily Nation on November 4th 2014
When an announcement was made regarding a menu well tacked in the seat pocket, I realized that I was flying a no-frills airline. That was several years ago on a Mesa Airlines / United Express operated flight. I recall a crew walking down the aisle carrying a kettle of coffee and cups in her hands whispering “coffee, coffee, coffee”. Coffee was and I believe still is a complimentary drink on offer in many such airlines. I should have known better and carried a snack or better still taken a meal beforehand.
Also referred to as low cost (LCC), budget or discount carriers, such airlines have been in existence for decades. The salient features in many include more seats, packed flights, a fee for just about anything – checked-in luggage, snacks, water, priority boarding, seat allocation, checking in at the airport, pillow, blanket and much more. In 2009, Ryanair the biggest LCC in Europe had even provoked customers that it would start charging for use of aircraft toilets but it did not. In addition, LCC do not have a business class and many do not care about elegant lounges. Some accept only direct bookings i.e. no travel agents and almost always raise ticket prices when demand is high and lower during slow periods. I hope none will create a stand up belted up section in future. Leading LCC Southwest, Ryanair and Easyjet have grown in popularity despite these limited services.
Do the limited services impact the travel experience? When I took a maiden flight on Jambojet a few days, I knew what to expect on a no-frills airline. In fact my only expectation was to get to my destination safely. I was not even sure of jambojet’s on-time performance and when we departed 10 minutes early my expectations were exceeded. Southwest Airlines the world’s largest LCC lowers its customer expectations through truthful advertisements. It is said to always put the highest fares on these adverts and extensively communicates about any additional fees and the services. Its reliability, friendly service and low-priced tickets are benefits its customers have count on for years.
As Jambojet continues to make flying more affordable it is my hope that factual adverts, reliability and friendly service remain top on its agenda. I observed the crew assist some 1st time passengers with their hand-luggage; I must admit that I was impressed because they helped tirelessly. What was also impressive was the use of the phrase “Wageni Wetu wa Heshima” i.e. our esteemed guests to address passengers. I have for quite some time expressed via twitter my dislike of the usual “Mabibi na Mabwana” which only sounds good in English i.e. “Ladies and Gentlemen”. This was most welcome and I hope it is the new standard.
The popularity of Jambojet is likely to continue mainly because the ticket prices are attractive. LCC generally receive lesser complaints because their customers have lower expectations. My conclusion is that when flying a no-frills airline only a few expectations are valid i.e. truthfulness, timeliness, safety and friendliness. If these are met, there may be nothing to complain about the no-frills customer experience.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy