I often hear travelers talk about hotels and airlines as if they are in the same industry. On one hand, they are. Somewhat. On the other hand, they are totally different.
What do they have in common? Typically, they meet the needs of travelers on a short-term basis. Both have a limited number of rooms/seats, a desire to fill them to capacity each night or flight, and some booking similarities. Safety is the number one concern for both and we would like to believe that being in a service industry, they strongly support their customers whenever possible. They also know, however, that they must deal with last minute issues and guests/passengers who speak other languages. Sometimes the guests/passengers are a bit unruly or cause a disturbance and intervention is required. Both offer loyalty programs as well as benefits to those who frequent their services the most. And sometimes they may feel that overentitled elites are a bit too demanding.
Beyond this, the two industries go separate ways. In the hospitality industry, there are still many mom & pop motels out there but the majority of providers are the chains like Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Starwood. The chains are mostly management companies and the properties are primarily owned by others, usually individuals, partnerships, or real estate investment trusts. Indeed, many of these franchisees own properties across brands. Very often when you see a Springhill Suites next door to a Hampton Inn, ownership is the same even though one property flies the flag of Marriott while the other flies Hilton.
Most hospitality guests stay for a period of nights and it is somewhat uncommon to “walk” guests due to overbooking. Nevertheless, hotel managers often have friendly relationships with nearby properties, especially those who share the same chain or ownership but typically others as well.
On the other hand, the airline industry offers no franchise opportunities. Some are privately owned but the majors are all owned by stockholders. Airlines have far more strict regulations from the likes of FAA, DOT, and others, and are much more likely to receive Congressional attention. Passengers are crammed into a metal tube for a period of hours and the expectation and hope of flight crews is that everyone will remain quiet and calm for the duration of the flight.
Unlike hotels, airlines are always at the mercy of weather as well as air traffic control, mechanical issues, and crew time outs. A problem is one city can have a ripple effect across the entire country. Overbooking is comparatively common but because of the transparency of an airplane cabin vs seeing behind the closed doors of a hotel, it is easier to notice if elites did not receive upgraded seats when some go out empty.
Small regional jets typically have only one cabin, larger aircraft have two or three so there are opportunities to upgrade. Hotels offer many more upgrade possibilities including higher floors, corner rooms, executive level, different size suites, and more.
Arrive thirty minutes after the check-in time at a hotel, no problem. Arrive thirty minutes after the check-in for a flight, big problem.
In the end, there are similarities between the hotel and airline industries but there really are more differences. They share a common customer – the traveler – but after that, they are pretty much night and day — or is that aisle and window?