The Little Things Can Make A Big Difference

My recent trip to New York gave me an opportunity to compare services from two different airlines. The airlines in question, Jet Blue and Frontier, are both good airlines and I would happily fly either in the future. This post isn’t meant to be derogatory toward either, but one goes slightly further with the little things and those little things will make a difference when I fly in the future.

A little background before the comparison. I’ve been flying back and forth between Denver and New York ever since I moved to Colorado nine years ago. At first I always flew Frontier since they offered a better flight time for me, but a few years ago Jet Blue added another flight at about the same time and since they fly into JFK airport, which is a little closer to where I go in New York I’ve tended to fly them more recently.

Again both airlines have always done well by me. They have safely gotten me to where I wanted to go every time and in the end that’s really all I need from an airline.

For this trip it so happened that Frontier offered a much better fare and even though La Guardia airport is a little further from my destination it made a lot of sense to go with them. And since it’s been a few years since flying Frontier it did give me a chance to compare their service to Jet Blue, which I’ve been flying lately.

A couple of seemingly small things stood out. First Jet Blue has been providing free tv service on flights for a few years. They do charge extra for the pay per view movies, but they do offer about 30 or so free channels. I typically spend flights alternating between sleeping and watching one of several ESPN channels to pass the time. Frontier on the other hand requires $5 for the same tv. The movies were even more at $8 to watch. The only channel they offer for free is one the produce, which has about 2 hours or so of programming before repeating the cycle.

The second small thing is the snacks each provides. Neither provides meals at the moment on my flight. Jet Blue usually offers a choice of the basic chips and biscotti. When I’ve asked for two different items I was always handed my two choices with a smile. Frontier offers a similar selection of snacks, however, when I asked for two snacks on my flight to New York last week I was told I could have a second snack only if there were any left after getting to all the passengers. Less than a minute later the flight attended handed the extra chips I asked for to the person sitting directly in front of me. She had completely forgotten who had asked her in the brief time since the request. On the return flight to Denver a donut was the only option for a snack.

Clearly both of the above are pretty small things and neither will prevent me from flying Frontier in the future. But all other things being equal which airline do you think will end up with my business? Both have three flights to my destination all at nearly the same time. Both are generally very close to each other on the price. One though, goes just a little further than the other on some in-flight services, but those little things can make all the difference the next time I need to make a reservation.

For the little bit of extra money they may save on giving out an additional snack or getting a few people to pay for tv Frontier is potentially losing a couple of passengers. Even just one empty seat will probably cost more than anything they saved. Now admittedly both flights were full so maybe it really doesn’t make a difference, but I suspect that it can. Even a few minor things can lead to a much better customer experience.

And once again I would still happily fly Frontier in the future since tv and snacks are hardly the main reason for deciding on a flight, but both of those little things will probably send me to their competition more often than otherwise. When making decisions about your own business think twice about trying to make as much as you can on every little thing. Giving away a few small things can really make a big difference in keeping a loyal customer and generating repeat business on those bigger things that will be worth far more than anything you lose on the giveaway.

The point here isn’t that one airline is better than another. The point is that the small details can often enough be all it takes to earn repeat business. Small things that don’t require a lot of money or effort can bring back a greater return that that the cost to implement them.

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