Not so EasyJet – the importance of a customer promise


Share on LinkedIn

Now, you might be forgiven for initially thinking that this is yet another blog whinging about poor customer service from a major brand that is already well known for not offering particularly good customer service. But it isn’t. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t on the receiving end of poor service, because I actually was. However the underlying message behind this story goes a little bit deeper. This story is about the importance of a Customer Promise.

So, around 12 months ago I took a short-haul flight for business within Europe with EasyJet. This particular inbound flight was not so empty, but also not so full. The only free ailes close to where I was sitting were the ones with extra legroom. However being quite a broad chap, I found myself squeezed between two other particularly broad shouldered individuals. None of us were comfortable with our arrangement.

So, on an off-chance, I enquired with a flight attendant whether it would be possible for one of the three of us to sit in the empty row, giving the other two extra shoulder room. I had experienced on the much quieter outbound flight that the attendants had been more than happy for people to spread out and sit pretty much anywhere they had wanted. However in this instance, I was advised that this was not possible, as you have pay extra to sit in an extra-legroom aisle.

I politely pointed out that as nobody was in them, they were not going to make any money from them anyway; and that she could make three very broad shouldered chaps really happy with one little decision. However the flight attendant replied that there was nothing that she could do and that “those were the rules”. Aah… those lovely rules that should never be broken!

I wasn’t really in the mood to let it go, however as I continued, a woman sitting in front of me spoke out in defense of the flight attendant, stating that she was off-duty cabin crew; and knew that the purser on this flight was really strict and would not allow it. I pointed out the fact that this had not been the case on the outbound flight, where passengers had been allowed to spread out at will, however both women confirmed that the same rules would not be applied in this instance; and the decision to allow passengers to use the empty aisles with extra legroom was very much to the discretion of the purser on a case-by-case, flight-by-flight basis. This was a battle I was not going to win, so I settled down for the remainder of the flight, pressed tightly against the hulking bodies of two complete strangers.

So, what can we take from this? Bad service?? Maybe, but on the other hand, maybe not. Of course, I understand that with a low-cost flight, there are no frills on offer without a price attached to them; and that these women were simply doing their job the way that their boss had asked them to. Maybe I was in the wrong for pushing the issue.

The problem was, however, that my expectations had already been set by what I had experienced just a few days before on the outbound flight. Maybe the flight attendants on the outbound flight had been wrong; and that by raising my expectations, they had made life difficult for their colleagues by not sticking to the rules. After all, this was EasyJet, not Singapore Airlines.

Customer Promise

What this story really tells us is about the importance of a carefully crafted Customer Promise and Commitments that are not only reflected consistently through the delivery of the service, but also underpin the branding and communications shared with customers. If EasyJet do have a Customer Promise and Commitments, on the evidence presented to me, it appears that they are not being consistently followed and communicated. It would seem that the word of the purser overrides the word of the brand.

This blog could have been about poor customer service. It could have been about the importance of not being a jobsworth and employee empowerment. However all of these things are underpinned by a Customer Promise and Commitments that should sit at the very heart of any well constructed and executed Customer Experience transformation programme.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Williams
A customer experience specialist who works with organisations that understand that by placing customer value at the heart of the business' operations, they not only deliver enhanced customer experiences; but also discover the secret to driving improved business profitability. Has worked with organisations such as TalkTalk, Prudential, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services & E.ON.


  1. Hey Ian!

    Sorry to hear about your lousy experience on easyJet. I too have been sandwiched in the middle seat and suffered for it, so I feel your pain.

    While it’s possible that the flight attendant was simply having a bad day (and taking it out on you), there’s another explanation for why you may have not been allowed to occupy that empty row:

    Weight and balance issues. Seems kind of ridiculous to say that a huge machine like an airplane could be affected by you shifting your seat, but on a significantly uncrowded plane the flight crew is usually under orders — can’t say if they’re by law or simply company policy — to keep people in their assigned seats.

    Or, yes, that flight attendant was just being particularly nasty! After all, it’s not what you say that matters, but how you say it that makes the real difference. They probably could’ve been nicer to you.

    The next time you fly easyJet, Ryanair, or one of those other budget airlines, why not consider browsing this handy infographic? It could save you a headache 🙂

  2. Hi Ian, I’d say this blog IS about poor customer service. Why? Because the there apparently is a disconnect between the company’s ‘values’ as laid out in the <a href = ""customer charter. it is not a matter of a transformation program but about walking the talk. If it really is a policy to not allow passengers to move then the policy is out of synch with the customer promise, else there is another reason – e.g. the weight distribution one that Nathan suggested. The pursers clearly are empowered to take some decisions, as some did.


    PS: Nathan, you might want to add United and co into your Infographic. They are as bad as the low cost carriers, just that they don’t admit to being a low cost carrier (my experience from a number of cross-US flights…)

  3. To be honest Nathan, I don’t think it was anything to do with weight distribution. Moving one person two rows forward on the same side of a plane which was 3/4 full wasn’t going to make any difference. Weight distribution does have to be considered on a plane, but not to that minute level of detail.

    I don’t think she was being nasty either. She was just doing what her boss told her to do.

    The customer charter ( is interesting. Thanks for sharing Thomas. You could argue that they complied with two of the five elements. They were definitely not being unsafe (although, as above, I would argue that this decision had nothing to do with safety) and they were open & honest with me (straight with me and told the truth). However there was no big smile, they were not on my side and they certainly didn’t make it easy.

    So, on balance, it would seem that the second crew (2/5) were not complying with their customer promise as much as the first crew (5/5).

    In terms of compliance with company policy, this is the crux of the matter for me. On the first flight (which as only half full) they let people sit wherever they wanted to (which kind of debunks the weight distribution argument) and on the second flight they strictly enforced the purser’s decision not to allow people to move. Whatever the policy, either one crew or the other were non-compliant with the customer promise, which is what had created the seemingly false expectation in my mind.

    Having experienced this first hand, I can say with some confidence that this was all about adherence to commercial policy (not safety) over customer happiness. Yes, the service wasn’t great, but more importantly, it highlights that the customer charter is either not being applied uniformly; is not being taken seriously or is considered to be less important than the word of the purser on a case-by-case basis.

    When customer promises are not converted into service guidelines that are applied consistently in every instance, this is where it starts to fall down.

  4. @Thomas, you are spot on with United Airlines, and you may as well add Delta and American to the list — the mergers have killed off any semblance of customer service when it comes to flying in the USA. I do have a soft spot for Southwest Airlines and even Frontier (which has the same no-recline seats you find on RyanAir or EasyJet) — their flight attendants, in my experience, have always been funny, friendly, and cheerful enough.

    Speaking of United, earlier this month, Hurricane Matthew knocked out much of the regional transport in North Carolina, where I happened to be visiting a friend. I wasn’t able to reach the airport for my flight — on United — onwards to Columbus, Ohio. After explaining this for an hour to the United Airlines support, the best they could offer me was a rescheduling from the same airport for some time in the next few days, rather than let me fly out of an unaffected airport 140 km away (for clarification purposes, they said I was free to reschedule my itinerary from this different origin point but i would pay $180 to change it). I absolutely lost it at that point, because it’s not like I was missing my flight from negligence — it was a natural disaster! I ended up booking a new flight on Southwest Airlines for the next day, because it was actually cheaper than paying the $180 change fee. So I hung up and wrote a strongly worded email to them explaining that if I didn’t get a refund or full credit for this flight I would never fly with them again. Surprisingly, they listened to me! But it’s a shame I had to go to such lengths to receive what we would all agree is a minimum amount of empathy from them.

    And Ian, thanks for the clarification on the weight issue, with your EasyJet flight. Clearly it was an appalling lack of customer service on their part. It’s really a shame they were so hard-nosed about it. Have you written them yet about this? Would be rather foolish of them to ignore you, and if you explain that you will be choosing their competitors from now on, they will probably consider giving you a voucher. Good luck and safe flying to you both!


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here