Miscellaneous Blog Posts

Rants on Skymark’s concept that went up in flames

Skymark Airlines, a Japanese airline company, shook the whole sky over Japan last month with its release of the service concept. “We offer no extra service. And extra entails a lot of things, but we just don’t offer them. If you have a problem, call the consumer complaint center (not us)” was the bottom line (Zakzak news here, Japanese only). I had something to rant about it, which I’ve forgotten for a while, so here is the cold dish.

I agree, “Safety costs money. Elaborate service costs money. We don’t cut costs on safety but we do with service, and that’s how we make it cheap. If you don’t like it, fly with some other company.” But when Skymark says it, that’s one of the very legitimate reasons why it led to the flaming argument because of the past incident cases of the very airline. Another reason probably is the dissonance when you wonder how the staff who have been trained about safety can remain incompetent in serving customers at some standard level.

I used to work at Mt. Fuji guiding tours, where safety was, just like up in the air, first priority. The last thing you want to do is see customers get hurt, get sick or go missing. So you’d rather be mean and sometimes stop them before the peak, if that’s where the limit is for the customer to fully enjoy it but not beyond the boundaries of capability and safety. But then I noticed, finally, that active and friendly communication led to safety. If you are smiling while guiding, customers can more easily tell you how they are feeling, about their secret chronic disease, or how they can’t wait for a beer. And when the smiley guide tell them with a serious face like, “Typhoon is coming straight towards us. Let’s go back,” that’s easier for them to listen to and follow. I assume the story works about the same in the air.

I think, personally, it will be an important strategy in Japan to get rid of extra smiley service in pursuit of price competitiveness. But I also feel that this incident may delay it. Some economist called this kind of service “emotional labor,” on the assumption that providing services that way itself is a cost factor. In Japan, on the other hand, service equals free, just like safety and water are said to be considered so. Or, the notion of emotional labor can be replaced with issues like work ethics or personal capability. So there is no wonder that the launch of this policy stirred it up so bad.

Fast forward my random thoughts and here is the conclusion, my wild hypothesis: Isn’t this a stepping stone laid down by Skymark so that it can hire foreign staff who don’s speak Japanese?

That almost completes the puzzle. If they hire those who have experience in airlines in cheaper countries, the running cost of labor as well as cost for the training period can be cut. These workers will have had some safety education, and there’s no problem if they don’t speak much Japanese. Bingo.

If you ask me if I’d ride, well yes, I’d like to give it a shot, as long as it’s safe.

By the way, the policy of North Shore Products is more like this: “Rather than sweating out on emotional labor, we proudly offer the greatest products and experiences. However we end up having the smile anyway, because we love what we are doing.”