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How Airlines Get Customer Experience So Wrong with So Much Data

Sarah Steimer

Using data to segment products and customers may not breed airline satisfaction

Peter Fader flies a lot.

The Wharton School marketing professor has the highest frequent-flyer status on a certain airline, often earning him first-class seating, but he flew coach a few summers ago with his family. This discrepancy in his typical seating data must have triggered an alert to the flight crew. Once all passengers were seated, one of the pilots came back and greeted Fader, remarking on what a valuable customer he was.

“We know that you usually fly first class with us, and deservedly so,” Fader recalls the pilot saying. “But we appreciate having your whole family with you and want to make your flight as special as possible, despite being in coach.”


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Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.