Is Delivering Beyond Expectation Always Wise?

We flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul and back, but I wonder if I’ll do that again. Don’t get me wrong, it was a pleasant experience; in fact exceedingly so. So why am I hesitant? Let me take you through it.

The flying time from Budapest to Istanbul is about the same as Budapest to London. On flights to London, I’ve become accustomed to quick demonstrations of the safety features, a drink, and a sandwich in a cardboard wrapper. Efficient, impersonal, predictable; and with little room for dissatisfaction once you know what you’re in for and calibrate your expectations accordingly.

The Turkish Airlines experience was vastly different. Hot towels, a menu card, choice of hot meals served on trays, choice of beverages, and Turkish delight to round it all off. With so much to serve and clear away, and the usual passenger requests to attend to; the cabin crew were on their feet the entire flight. They didn’t seem to mind and were cheerful all the way.

This in-flight experience was bookended by attentive and personal care during check-in and at the end of the flight. Casual conversations, some humour and a very cheerful attitude even as our bags were weighed and tagged. A while after we’d checked in we realised that we had left a smart phone in the outside pocket of our checked-in bag. The counter staff, baggage handling people and various others got into the act and said they would retrieve it if the bag hadn’t moved to the secure storage area.

Indeed a lot of what we experienced on that trip reminded us of what air travel used to be : relaxed, exciting and slightly luxurious. So why am I hesitant about flying Turkish again? Simply because I’m not sure if my next flight will be as pleasant as the last one, and here’s why.

Despite delivering a superior experience even in economy, curiously Turkish Airlines’ image is not built on that. They make no reference to it in their marketing communications. And superior experience is probably not among the top 5 attributes that come to mind when you think of Turkish Airlines. I believe customer experience has to be part of the brand’s promise and values. It has to be recognised, internalised, systematised, promised and delivered.

I’m not sure just how well the airline recognises that their customer experience is such a major asset. Indeed if I’d seen some evidence of that (in their communications for example), I’d be reassured there were systems in place to deliver a particular standard consistently. In the absence of that, I sometimes wonder how much of my delight on the last trip was due to the individuals involved and how much was due to the airline’s policy and processes. It’s that doubt that’s making me hesitant to fly that airline again. I wonder if I would enjoy it as much.



  1. Fly Turkish Airlines again, and you will find out!
    Or are you afraid to be positively surprised?
    Live w/o expectations is much more pleasant and relaxed than live with expectations 😉

    • Fair point Jeroen, and I might do that … eventually. But I do find it strange when a service provider doesn’t recognise the value of what he provides!

  2. Personally if I would go through the same experience, it would be a positive “disappointment” for me.
    Then 2 things can happen:
    If later on I have the choice between Turkish and Airline X that I didn’t try before or is average for roughly the same price, then I’d go for Turkish.
    If I simply have a next flight with Turkish, then I look forward to it due to the positive experience. Then of course it will depend on this new experience, whether I will choose them again. My experience can be reinforced, or Turkish can become average. The latter is a bit of a disappointment but if they deliver average, then it’s OK. (Same service as others for the same price.)
    All in all, I wouldn’t be afraid, but rather looking forward to. I guess it’s different people, different expectations. 🙂

    • You hit the nail on the head, Andras. It’s that uncertainty with Turkish, really. Would one risk disappointment, or go with an airline where a consistent experience (even if average) is assured?

  3. I’d say the last paragraph says many about airlines communication as such. Besides the key factor (safety record) that is completely left out for obvious reasons, it seems something as basic, as consumer satisfaction on an average route, is the last they would work with in their communication. It seems airlines act in their communication like travel agents.
    However, in case of TK who are trying to be “the global airline” I’d say it is their standard. Have flown with them many times, and have experienced always the same attitude and approach. So don’t be afraid to fly Turkish again, but no need to tell them you are a satisfied customer 🙂

    • Thanks for your feedback Martin. Your vote of confidence in TK will count towards my next decision. Maybe they should give you some credit, eh?

  4. Dear Sam
    Just again in Istanbul, of course with Turkish airlines. And service was as good as last time. As Sam said. Yes I agree that they are not marketing the difference they make, yet seems we all share our word of mouth further. It is probably that our experience differs from what they see as their main strength but this is anyhow often so. Being big does not mean knowing it all by itself. Meantime while I will enjoy their hospitality, good airplanes, entertainment and so on. Till some “excel wise guy” decides all of it is just cost they can scrap off like others did.

    • Thanks Ratko. Happy to know your experience is similar. Enjoyed Istanbul?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *