Up in the air.

     With the recent announcement that Sky Service has gone under, I am motivated to tell of our worst vacation experience. It is perhaps ironic that this nightmare involved Sky Service (the charter airline) and Conquest Vacations (the tour operator). Conquest ceased operations in April of 2009 and now Sky Service ceases operation in April 2010. In both cases they cite the economy as a major contributing factor but I hold that it was their past treatment of customers that did them in.

     Here’s our story. We had booked a flight to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera region which means a flight into and out of Cancun. On the day of our return, we were informed that the Calgary flight had been cancelled and all Calgary passengers were being placed on the Vancouver flight. By combining flights we had an aircraft that was completely full. We departed from Cancun in the early evening. After many hours of flying, the cabin crew announced that we must prepare for our approach into the Vancouver airport. A few minutes passed and the steward came back over the P.A. and said that he had been informed that we were in fact preparing to land in Spokane, Washington. The plane did not have enough fuel to get us to Vancouver. We were a plane load of Canadians landing in the United States in the middle of the night. We didn’t have U.S. Customs clearance so we couldn’t leave the plane. We were parked in some dark corner of the airport while the flight crew negotiated to buy enough jet fuel to get us to Vancouver. We completely ran out of supplies, there was no coffee, no soft drinks, no water, no snacks. We finally got fuel and were able to fly to Vancouver. The Vancouver passengers de-planed, the plane was refueled and the crew was changed but the Calgary passengers were not allowed to leave the plane. When we arrived in Calgary, Canada Customers hadn’t yet opened so we had a further wait. In total, we were on the aircraft for 12 hours.

     We vowed to never again do business with Sky Service or Conquest Vacations. The decision to cancel the Calgary flight was likely a move to save a few dollars. When you are in a position to make these decisions for your company, don’t just look at the money that is saved in the short term, you must also consider how it impacts the delivery of service and the experience of your customer. Calculate the lifetime value of a customer and decide if you are willing to risk that value to save in the short term.