Why Don't Airlines Make Pilots and Staff Into Customer Loyalty Features?

One of the smart things Politico did out of the gate was build identification (or sometimes devoted enmity!) with their reporters — that’s why Ben Smith’s blog is named, you know, “Ben Smith,” and there’s a cute little cartoon of him. I mean, this is an obvious thing but somehow still an under-done thing online, and it works. (It gives the “YOUR PRESEDINT OSAMA’S IDDIOT” commenters someone to recognize.) And not enough companies take advantage of building bonds between their employees and their customers. The number one industry that would benefit? Airlines.

A couple years ago I had a flight attendant on an American Airlines trip from Newark to Seattle that, if I knew what routes she was on, I would exclusively fly with her. At this point, I can’t even remember her name! This is a travesty of lost opportunities. And the other day I flew with a pilot — Captain Laura! — and I’d go anywhere she flew, because the flight was pleasant and so I associate that pleasantness with her, correctly or not. Probably not! I liked the way she climbed, then plateaued, then re-climbed on takeoff! And I dug her coming-in-hot “gonna get this plane in before we get marked as late” landing. Now these are all air traffic control and flight management issues, but of course I associate them with the pilot.

So why won’t the airline give me the chance to follow their staff around? Now, truth be told, this isn’t that easy, since the airline shifts staff around so much (their union will tell you all about that), but still, steps could be taken. Input the staff into a database, add a search field to the customer side, blammo, done. Even if there’s constant switching of shifts and staffs, you can still use this to humanize the company and build customer loyalty. It’s a whole extra layer of brand devotion!