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How Technology Has Failed to Improve Your Airline Experience

来源:纽约时报    2017-04-13 08:33:30

        There are many reasons for the sorry state of commercial aviation in America. When it comes to your routinely terrible flight — not to mention the sort of exceptional horror that took place aboard United Airlines Flight 3411 this past weekend — regulatory failures as well as consolidation, which the authorities have allowed to occur unabated for decades, can be blamed.        美国商业航空公司的糟糕状况有很多原因。你经常遇到的糟糕飞行体验——更不必说过去这个周末美国联合航空公司(United Airlines)3411号航班上发生的那种格外可怕的事件——可以归咎于监管不力,以及过去几十年里当局允许类似事件的持续发生。
        But I come to you as a technology columnist to tell you that technology, too, has failed you.        但是,作为技术专栏作家,我要对你说的是,技术也是一个诱因。
        People in Silicon Valley pride themselves on their capacity to upend entrenched industries. Uber defeated taxi cartels. Airbnb made getting a room cheaper and more accessible. Streaming services are undoing the cable business. Yet the airline industry has not just stubbornly resisted innovation to improve customer service — in many ways, technology has only fueled the industry’s race to the bottom.        硅谷的人们为自己颠覆根深蒂固的行业的能力感到自豪。Uber击败了出租车垄断联盟。Airbnb能让人们更方便地获得更便宜的客房。流媒体服务正在取代有线电视业务。而航空业不但坚决抵制改善客户服务的创新,技术还在很多方面推动着这个行业继续堕落。
        Everything about United Flight 3411 — overselling, underpaying for seats when they are oversold, a cultish refusal to offer immediate contrition, an overall attitude that brutish capitalism is the best that nonelite customers can expect from this fallen world — is baked into the airline industry’s business model. And that business model has been accelerated by tech.        关于美联航3411号航班事件的一切——超售;为超售付出的代价过低;狂妄地拒绝在第一时间表达悔意;从根本上认为野蛮资本主义已是非精英客户在这堕落世界能得到的最佳待遇——已经渗入航空业的业务模式。而且这种商业模式得到了技术的推动。
        Travel search engines rank airlines based on price rather than friendliness or quality of service. Online check-in, airport kiosks and apps allow airlines to serve customers with fewer and fewer workers. What we are witnessing is the basest, ugliest form of tech-abetted, bottom-seeking capitalism — one concerned with prices and profits above all else, with little regard for quality of service, for friendliness, or even for the dignity of customers.        旅行搜索引擎根据价格而非友好程度或服务质量对航空公司进行评级。在线值机、机场自助值机台和应用程序可以让航空公司用更少的员工为客户提供服务。我们目睹的是最基本、最丑陋的以技术为支持、追求利润的资本主义形式——对价格和利润的关心高于其他一切,几乎不考虑服务质量或友善程度,甚至不考虑客户的尊严。
        “The airline industry has been on a steady downward trajectory when it comes to customer service for nearly 40 years,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry research firm. He noted that American carriers were improving on some metrics — on-time service is up, baggage loss is down and prices keep getting better.        “近40年来,航空业在客户服务方面处于持续下滑的轨道,”旅游业研究公司大气研究集团(Atmosphere Research Group)总裁亨利·H·哈特韦尔兹(Henry H. Harteveldt)说。他指出,美国航空公司在某些方面有所改进——准点率提高,行李遗失率降低,价格持续下降。
        What keeps deteriorating are comfort and quality of service for low-end passengers (i.e., most people). Legroom keeps shrinking. Airlines keep tacking on separate fees for amenities we used to consider part of the flight. And customers keep going along with it.        不断恶化的是低端乘客(即大多数人)的舒适程度和获得的服务质量。伸腿空间不断缩小。航空公司不断为我们以往认为属于航班一部分的设施单独收费。客户们不断容忍。
        “Consumers have shown that they’re willing to put up with an awful lot, including lack of legroom, lack of amenities, mediocre or worse customer service, dirty airplanes and more to save money,” Harteveldt said. “And the airline industry has evolved to meet that desire” for cheap fares.        哈特韦尔兹称,“消费者表明,为了省钱,他们愿意忍受很多事情,包括伸腿空间缺乏,设施缺乏,中等或更差的客户服务,肮脏的飞机等”,“航空业已经在为满足追求”便宜票价“的欲望而演变”。
        Part of the problem is how we buy tickets today. The whole system is mercilessly transactional. When you search online, you look for price and travel times, and perhaps you consider some airline loyalty program. Customer service — that is, how the airline treats you — isn’t often part of the transaction.        一个问题是如今我们购买机票的方式。整个系统是无情的交易。你在线搜索时关注的是价格和旅行时间,你也许会考虑某些航空公司的会员计划。客户服务——也就是航空公司对待你的方式——通常不是交易的一部分。
        As a result, airlines have little incentive to reform themselves.        因此,航空公司几乎没有改革的动力。
        “Airline executives will tell you they don’t view themselves as being service companies,” Harteveldt said. “They want Wall Street to view them as industrial companies, and they want consumers to view them as transportation providers. Customer service is just not what the airlines are about.”        “航空公司高管会对你说,他们不认为自己是服务公司,”哈特韦尔兹说,“他们希望被华尔街视为工业公司,被消费者视为运输提供商。他们认为客户服务跟航空公司无关。”
        Can technology improve how airlines work? Some people have ideas for how that may happen.        技术能改进航空公司的运作方式吗?有些人对可能的实现方式有一些想法。
        One of them is obvious and sensible: customer reviews. Last year TripAdvisor, the travel reviews site that has become indispensable for hotel bookings, began rating airlines. Its new rankings, released this week, show that overall, airlines get an average rating of 3.7 out of 5 from customers.        其中一个方式是显而易见而合乎情理的:客户评论。去年,旅行点评网站TripAdvisor——对酒店预订来说,它是不可或缺的——开始邀请用户点评航空公司。它本周发布的最新排名显示,总体而言,客户们给航空公司的平均评分为3.7分(总分5分)。
        Emirates and Singapore Airlines are rated the best in the world; two U.S. airlines, JetBlue and Alaska, made TripAdvisor’s Top 10 list. But Delta was the only major U.S. airline to receive TripAdvisor’s seal of approval. United and American Airlines did not meet the site’s minimum threshold, though Bryan Saltzburg, senior vice president for TripAdvisor’s global flight business, said that the two had been improving.        阿联酋航空和新加坡航空被评为世界上最好的航空公司;两家美国航空公司捷蓝航空(JetBlue)和阿拉斯加航空跻身TripAdvisor的前10名榜单。不过,达美航空(Delta)是唯一获得TripAdvisor认可的大型美国航空公司。美联航和美国航空公司(American Airlines)没有达到该网站的最低门槛,不过TripAdvisor的全球飞行业务高级副总裁布赖恩·萨尔茨伯格(Bryan Saltzburg)表示,这两家航空公司都在改善。
        One can imagine how such reviews could prompt improvements in airlines. If instead of just price, travel search engines included prominent warnings from reviewers — “This airline might give you a bloody lip while kicking you from your seat, 1-star!” — that could alter travelers’ calculations in booking.        你可以想像这样的评论可能会如何促使航空公司做出改进。如果旅行搜索引擎不只包括价格,还包括显眼的乘客警告——“这家航空公司可能会把你从座位上赶走,还把你的嘴唇打流血,1星!”——这可能会改变旅客预订时的盘算。
        “That would be a good idea — a filter on travel search that says, ‘Click this filter and it might cost you a few dollars more, but we’ll bias you toward airlines that treat their customers well,'” said Paul English, co-founder of the travel search company Kayak who now runs another travel startup, Lola.        “这将是一个好主意——在旅行搜索引擎上加一个过滤器,它会提醒说:‘点击此过滤器,它可能会让你多花几块钱,但它会把你引向对客户友好的航空公司,’”旅行搜索公司Kayak的联合创始人保罗·英格利希(Paul English)说。他现在在经营另一家旅行初创公司Lola。
        That is small potatoes, though. A bigger disruption would come from altering how we pay for airfares. In the same way that Netflix changed the DVD business by charging a monthly fee, some consultants argue that a membership fee could radically improve flying.        不过那只是小打小闹。更大的调整将来自改变我们支付机票费用的方式。与Netflix以收取月费的方式改变DVD行业一样,有些顾问认为,会员费可以从根本上改善飞行体验。
        “We’ve prototyped a subscription airline in the past, and it basically gets the airline out of the business of reducing service for offering the lowest fares,” said Devin Liddell, principal brand strategist for Teague, a design firm that works with Boeing and other transportation companies.        “过去,我们设计过一个会费航空公司的模型,它基本上能让航空公司摆脱为提供最低票价而减少服务的做法,”与波音(Boeing)等运输公司合作的设计公司Teague的首席品牌策略师德温·利德尔(Devin Liddell)说。
        Some startups have tried a monthly subscription model, and none have taken off. But airline startups face high capital costs; a new business model might work, Liddell said, if an established airline tries it as a way to break free from the accepted way of doing things.        有些初创公司尝试过会费模式,但都没有壮大起来。不过初创航空公司面临高昂的资金成本。利德尔表示,如果成熟航空公司尝试这种新的商业模式,以摆脱以往的运作方式,它有可能会成功。
        Your only technological hope for better service is your smartphone camera and the viral push of social networks. If you are violently kicked off your flight, at least your fellow passengers will post a video to Facebook.        你想获得更好服务的唯一技术希望,是你的智能手机摄像头和社交网络的疯狂转发。如果你被粗暴地赶下飞机,至少你的同行乘客会拍个视频,发布到Facebook上。

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