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It’s easy to pick on the airlines, but with today’s news that Delta and Northwest are seeing fewer passengers in the last year points to the situation all the airlines find themselves in. Gas prices hit them last summer and now the economy has forced consumers to find alternative ways to travel. If they travel at all.

But here’s the rub: We’re doing it in part because we’re angry at the airlines industry as a whole (just like the auto industry) because they haven’t responded to our years of dissatisfaction and have made very few changes to their model. Basically, we know they don’t care two hoots about us and now, when they need us, we look away (unless we have to come groveling for a flight).

Adding to the problem is that consumers simply can’t tell them all apart. Like the banking industry, where everyone looks and sounds alike, the airlines promote themselves in almost identical fashion. When that happens – when there is no emotional, brand differentiation – we as consumers collect them all in the same box. If we have a bad experience with one, we think the rest are the same. Why? Because they haven’t told us any different. By having the same messages as the competition, each airline is brought down by the lowest common dominator.

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The question becomes: Who wants to fly now when nobody looks and sounds and says anything different than the rest?