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aug 14 2008

What airlines do poorly and Disney does so well

Why is it so annoying when an airline charges you a fee at the airport or on the plane, such as $15 fee for checking a single bag?

The most interesting explanation I've read so far comes from marketing guru Seth Godin.

He says there's a problem with "bait and switch" selling tactics. He says that when the airlines charge you one price up-front, and then hit you with a baggage fee at the gate, they "have to be very careful to apply the fees equally because people hate being treated worse than everyone else."

For example, if you feel that you've carried the same bags onto flights without being charged in the past, or think that the person in front of you escaped from having to pay a charge for a similar bag, you'll feel resentful for having to pay a fee. Yet here comes Seth's truly insightful point:

A key lesson from Disney:

When there is both pain and pleasure associated with your service, work extremely hard to separate them by time and geography.

Disney charges a fortune for the theme park, but they do it a week before you get there, or at a booth far far away from the rides. By the time you get to the rides, you're over it. The pain isn't associated with the fun part.

Airlines, on the other hand, surround the very thing they sell (getting you home) with armed guards, untrained TSA agents, long lines and sneering gate agents eager to take your money when you have absolutely no expectation or choice and when your stress is at its highest. This is a problem in the long run.

Do you think the airlines could learn from Disney in this--or any other--way?

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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