Friday, September 30, 2005

Achtung, baby.

So I finally get around to taking my sweetie on a long overdue honeymoon. We’re flying Lufthansa, and I’m stoked. This is one badass airline brand, just reeking of cool Teutonic competence and discipline. After flying the sad little public utility that is our country’s flag carrier, I’m looking forward to seeing how the big dogs do it. All across Europe I gush to sweetie about Lufthansa’s seamless brand presentation. The flight attendants are straight from central casting: Precisely matching Aryan blondes in precisely matching natty navy suits and splendid hats. The plane is right out of a corporate brochure, with grey leather seats trimmed in exactly the right Lufthansa-yellow piping, part of a corporate visual identity they’ve doggedly stuck with since the middle of the last century. Even the in-flight meal tray is chock full of clever design touches, brilliant detail after brilliant detail, again cleaving to the brand’s livery without compromise. If these guys put so much effort into organizing and presenting those plastic knives and forks, imagine how seriously they take flying planes. When that pilot says the cruising altitude will be “serty-two souzandt feet”, you know it’s not going to be 31,999 or 32,001.

And their advertising makes no bones about it. None of the usual “We love to fly and it shows so have a nice day and we’ll work really hard” disingenuous corporate pap. Their take it or leave it slogan is charming in its Prussian bluntness: “There is no better way to fly.”

Then they lost our luggage.

For, like, days.

They weren’t really sure where it was. Monaco, maybe. In any case, Prussian bluntness was suddenly replaced by on-holdness and evasiveness and fill out this form and hope for the bestness. Sweetie and I were on the verge of wearing the hotel bedsheets as togas when the bags finally appeared without fanfare or apology in the lobby.

Naturally, we were disgruntled. But, for me, the promise of the brand became gasoline on the fire of my disgruntledness. If it had been my usual airline, I would have been irritated but resigned to the inevitability. But this was a betrayal. How can I ever trust a natty uniform or a clever meal tray or yellow upholstery piping again? The moral of the story is obvious, of course: Don’t let your brand write cheques your product can’t cash.

And don’t wear a splendid hat unless you mean it.

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