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Speed to Market

As you may be aware, the FAA recently ruled that personal electronic devices such as e-readers, mp3 players, tablets, computers and smart phones could be left on during the take off and landing of aircraft instead of only being used above 10,000 feet.  Cell phones would have to be in “airplane mode” and laptop computers would have to be secured or stowed during the actual landing.

The new rule was in response to two overriding motivators.  The first is demand.  A recent study showed that over 80% of passengers now carry personal electronic devices with them for use on airplanes.   The second motivator is knowledge.  Passengers know that there has been no hard evidence that showed using personal electronic equipment on an airplane has caused any disruption to the operation of the craft (once again, this is only applying to cell phones in “airplane mode”.  The use of a cell phone’s transmission capabilities are still forbidden on planes at any time.).

There is also the practical evidence.  Who amongst us that have travelled on a plane in the last couple of years have not seen fellow passengers either secretly using their iPod during take off or taking out a Kindle immediately after the plane was in the air that has obviously been on the entire time?

This rule change was announced on October 31st.  The FAA also said that it would only come into effect on each airline as that airline changed its safety information and demonstration.  In other words, the FAA said it was okay but it was up to the airlines to allow it.

On November 6th I was flying on Jet Blue and they announced that personal electronic devices could be used during take off and landing.  Hurrah!

On November 9th I was flying on Southwest and they said that personal electronic devices still had to be stowed on their flights.  Huh?

Why is it that one airline was so much faster in rolling out a popular customer demand than the other one?  Both airlines consider themselves to be aggressive customer satisfaction companies.  I was on the same model of plane on both airlines. Granted, Southwest is the larger airline but they are also the ones that promote fun in the air the hardest (you would know this if you ever had to listen to a Southwest attendant sing the safety instructions).  On the three Southwest flights I have been on in the last five days, none of them gave any explanation as to why they weren’t changing the rules.

Whatever the reason, my fellow Southwest passengers were not impressed. They know of the change in the FAA regulations and some of them knew that other airlines were allowing the use of devices.

The end result was that the Southwest passengers felt that the airline was behind the times and not looking out for the customers.  The lesson to be learned is that when there is a shift in your industry you need to respond to it quickly.  You know what happened.  Your customer knows what happened. If you fail to meet the expectation of your customer then you have a failure of customer service.