Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

For many airlines, customer service is a bygone concept.

It's been replaced by, oh, customer tolerance. And, of course, customer fleecing.

You might not expect, then, an airline to respect such ancient concepts as nostalgia and honor.

Yet here's the story of a man who won a contest in 1935.

Arnold Neahus was only 7 at the time, but his prize was a precious one -- a flight around Amsterdam on KLM.

Unfortunately, Neahus couldn't go on the flight, because his sister had scarlet fever, which is highly infectious.

He did, though, keep the letter informing him that he'd won. He even showed it off to his family.

Cut to 83 years later. Arnold Neahus is now Grandpa Nol, but KLM still flies propeller planes.

Well, it did for him. The Dutch airline heard about Neahus's great win, a spokesman told me, because his granddaughter wrote to the board of directors.

The airline, in a spurt of kindness and wisdom, decided to honor the ticket for his 90th birthday.

Oh, I know this is marketing. It still shows there are little hearts beating in the depths of airline organizations.

Why, as my colleague Bill Murphy Jr. reported, United Airlines recently honored a Forever travel voucher from 1998.

The airline even picked Neahus and Jagger up in a Ford Model A Tudor car that was built in 1928.

The plane, however, postdated Neahus's contest win. It was a 1944 Dakota DC-3.

With a simple gesture, though, the airline garnered positive feelings toward its brand.

This is something too many airlines -- a couple in the U.S. I could mention -- tend to discard.

As they work solely to generate profits -- almost half the world's airline profits come from the U.S. -- they appear to dismiss how customers feel about their brand.

The logic some use is that the vast majority of customers fly only once a year.

Why, therefore, should an airline try and make them feel good? It's just a price, schedule, network, and nickel-and-diming game.

Yet occasionally, just occasionally, passengers have a choice of airlines. They also talk about their experiences to others. 

Word spreads, feelings are affected, and those feelings occasionally influence choices.

You look at the video and you think: "KLM doesn't seem like the worst airline, does it?"

And, from what I hear, it isn't.

Published on: Jun 26, 2018
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