This past weekend, Boeing successfully performed a test flight of its 747-8 Intercontinental. Being someone who spends much of their time using air travel for transportation, I have to wonder why is it that airplanes seem to progressively get more and more advanced, and the airlines themselves seem to follow an exponential slope in the other direction.

The Boeing 747-8I offers airlines the lowest operating costs and best economics while also catering to increased environmental performance. When quantified, these adjustments equate to 16 percent better fuel economy, 12 percent lower costs, 16 percent less carbon emissions per passenger, and noise reduction of 30 percent over the 747-400.

I shift my attention to the airlines, which have taken steps in the opposite direction and have avoided  making any improvements whatsoever. We now have to pay to check a bag, we have to fly airlines that constantly overbooks their flights, never taxis out on time, and from personal experience charge more to take a flight that leaves from Charlotte than one that departs from Greensboro and connects through Charlotte.

If only the airline’s business-to-consumer model could learn a bit from the manufacturer’s business-to-business model.

Brand is a fragile thing. Attempting  to resurrect a brand is much more difficult then launching one. In the case of the airlines, they all went the route of making price their differentiator and this has inevitably led to a market where price is the only qualifier for the consumer and no one single carrier has created preference through it. Even Southwest, which positions itself against bag fees, doesn’t deliver an emotional message of why as a consumer you should identify with a company that takes that position, they always make it about a dollars and cents saved proposition.

Brand has the power to transcend table stakes likes price. If the airlines do not change their focus they will continue to flounder and the quality and craftsmanship of the aircraft will matter little.