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The changing face of First Class

According to the Financial Times this week, it’s a bumper time for some airlines as their first and business class seats are being taken up by wealthy, free spending holiday makers keen on soaking up new and unique experiences. This has apparently more than offset the loss of some of their corporate travellers. Change can definitely be a force for good, but it can also be challenge.

Ever get that ‘sinking feeling’ when something of such magnitude happens and your world changes, but not for the better - of course you have. It’s easy getting into a routine that works, the challenge is having the ability to adapt to new/different circumstances.

A few years ago, I had that feeling going to Switzerland to run a programme for a pharma company. As the exercises were being recorded, there were lots of cables, connectors and accessories that I’d packed in my hold luggage (cameras were in my hand luggage). When I arrived at Basle, a baggage handlers strike meant that around 30% of the luggage was lost, including mine. That evening I spent most of my time running round the city trying to procure enough alternative kit to make the training work. I did, and the programme went well. When I got back to the airport for the return home, I had a choice. I could have a good moan, whinge and complain, which would make me feel better. Alternatively, I could tell the help desk what had had happened and pitch a proposal of compensation for the inconvenience. I chose the latter.

I let the help desk know what had happened, suggesting that I should have access to the Swiss air lounge before take-off (there was no BA lounge), my luggage had priority (not going through that lost luggage debacle again) and that I had an upgrade to a business class seat – it was Thursday and I was reasonably confident there would be spaces. I deliberately ‘targeted’ these three ‘gets’ as they were high value to me, but relatively low cost for the airline to ‘give’. Of course, with news from the FT this week, I might have struggled with the last item now.

My suggested takeaways from this are as follows:

  • If you have a complaint, pitch a realistic remedy (it’s better than just having a whinge)

  • Have a well-stocked list of ‘gives’ and ‘gets’

  • Think of variables in terms of cost v value – differential is what makes deals possible

Oh, and review your objectives and strategy regularly, failure to do so means that you get the equivalent of asking for a premium airline seat without first checking if they're all taken!

Sam Macbeth, 11th May 2023

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