It's not about profit. It's not about customer service. It's not about inventory. It's about consistency.
Ask the best restaurants in the world and, hands down, they'll all say that their success is primarily based on how consistent they are in delivering great meals for every person in the dining room, every day, consistently... forever. The brands that master consistency win. Especially when that consistency happens on top of a product or service that people love (and will talk about).
This is the problem with travelling in 2010. It lacks consistency.
If the rules were the rules. If the rules were clear. If the rules were known. If the rules were consistent across all aspects of air travel, people would be much more sympathetic and understanding. But, the rules are not, so people are not sympathetic. All in-bound flights to the United States now have a new/stricter security process in place because one guy (who was a known entity to security) managed to get on a plane bound for Detroit with explosives. Because of that breach, most of us need endure longer lines, more confusion and we're no longer allowed any carry-on baggage. Sort of... Well, not really... But yes, you can.
Here's the official security lingo: No carry-on baggage for all flights into the U.S. (including "briefcases"), but you are allowed, "laptop computers and accessories in regular carrying cases." On top of that, men, women and children are allowed, "small purses or pouches (10 in x 12 in x 5Â½ in)."
So, to break this down:
- You are not allowed to being a briefcase onboard, unless it has a laptop computer in it, and there is no size restriction to this bag.
- If you don't have a laptop computer in a regular carrying case, you're only allowed a satchel that is 10 x 12 in size.
And here's how this plays out in real-life:
In checking in for my flight this morning to the United States, I switched away from my backpack laptop carrying case to a standard laptop briefcase and printed out the PDF document that I linked to above from the transport security website. My customer service representative said that I have to check the bag, at which point I whipped out my print-out and showed him that - according to transport security - my bag is permissible. The person checking in on my right has his laptop in a Targus laptop backpack and must remove the laptop and check the backpack, this even after he says to the rep that he had called and asked if a laptop bag was permissible and told that it was (even my print-out couldn't help him because the backpack looked nothing like the laptop carrying case depicted in their PDF document).
Consistency in training and education failed for both the people working for the airline and the customer. Nobody wins.
We could stop right there and say that the security officials have some kind of beef with laptop cases that double as backpacks, but they still have that whole, "no briefcases, but yes to laptop carrying cases." Because they don't specify if there is a size restriction or what type of bag, or anything else, this basic lack of consistency creates more chaos than the result they are hoping to achieve. To make matters worse, the person who was forced to check his Targus laptop carrying case was sitting right next to a person who boarded the same flight with a Victorionix backpack laptop case. When the conversation around the backpack ensued, other passengers chimed in on their different and varying experiences.
So, what's a brand to do?
- If you need to have rules, make them clear.
- Make sure your whole team (from the CEO down to the janitor) understands how these rules play out.
- If the rules change, the whole food chain needs to know how and why.
- The rules have to make sense, and if they don't make sense, they need to explained in detail.
Remember, even if your brand has some strange issues, rules, regulations or laws attached to it, as long as you are consistent in how it plays out in the marketplace, people may not love it, but at least they'll understand it.
*and the travel tip is to get there early, be patient and have print-up of this document from CATSA: CATSA - Further guidance on carry-on items (US flights).