I can feel it as if I was about to relive it.  My shoulders begin to tighten, my feet and mind move a bit faster.  I race through the parking lot to find an open spot.  I then walk quickly to grab a boarding pass, then off to security.  What am I describing?

Airports.  We all experience them differently; however, most of us would likely agree air travel is not as much fun “as it used to be.”  When I was younger, it was a treat to go to the airport and something that I looked forward to.  Now, although I enjoy parts of it, overall the experience leaves much to be desired.

A couple of weeks ago on a Friday, I had the chance to wait in the boarding line, to take off my shoes before walking through the metal detectors….all while hoping to find a coffee shop before boarding the plane.  As if my mind wasn’t racing enough, I was also wondering how packed my flight might be….

And I actually ENJOY flying!  I love the feeling of having no control over or responsibility for the success of the takeoff or landing. I must put my faith in others doing their job as they have been trained to do.

Whatever the situation, we all go to the airport for the same reason; to go somewhere.  And for the most part, we all lack the ability to control the experience and “service” we receive.

The experience of flying commercially these days is not a model that is promoted by many companies (for example cost reduction, lower service standards, higher ticket costs, fees for anything extra, etc.).  The airline industry experienced a major upheaval several years ago due to financial struggles (bankruptcies of United Airlines and US Airways), mergers (Delta and United) and fuel costs (remember how much jet fuel was costing these companies in 2005?).  Many of those effects are still being felt today.

Companies hoping to leave a lasting (positive) impression with their clients/customers could study this experience as a way “not to be.”  I might be overly sensitive to it, but this is the reality of flying now.  Who likes to be treated as one of a thousand?  Who likes to be anonymous (if you refer to me as “Mr. Blower,” chances are we do not know each other)?

Think back on both positive and (not so) positive experiences you have had recently; whether at an amusement park, a restaurant, a movie theater and so on.  Whatever you felt or thought about that particular experience should be telling as to how willing you will be to choose a similar path in the future.  Chances are certain you will avoid the activities that left you feeling annoyed or disappointed.

As a leader in a service business, I consciously try to put myself in the shoes of consumers.  If you are not keenly aware of people’s likes/dislikes, preferences/turnoffs, how might you ever expect to build a positive experience people will willingly go through time after time?

Of course, I will continue to fly, but I certainly hope that “my experience” with airports improves over time.  However, in the meantime, I will stay aware and try to focus on the more enjoyable parts of air travel, that is to get myself from point A to point B as quickly and safely as possible.