A recent study released by J.D. Power and Associates found that overall airline customer satisfaction has actually improved in 2010, ending a three-year decline in marks for the industry.
Collectively, the airline industry received 673 points on a 1,000-point scale, improving by 15 points from the 2009 score of 658. This improvement was driven by an increase in cost, fee and in-flight service satisfaction, but researchers speculate the economic downturn is what’s really causing the uptick. See, it’s not that airlines have enhanced their customer service. It’s that fewer people are actually traveling. This means there’s less baggage to lose and more of a chance planes will make it in on time.
According to J.D. Power and Associate’s press release,“many of the same macroeconomic conditions that adversely impact airlines financially, including lower fares, have led to improvements in satisfaction. For example, with fewer passengers traveling and fewer flights in the air, on-time performance has improved.”
Additionally, while customers may not like add-on fees (for baggage, snacks, toddlers, etc.), we’ve grown accustomed to them. (Not good, folks. Our gradual acceptance of extra charges will invariably lead to more, and pretty soon, we’ll be paying to pee on planes. Oh … wait a minute.)
MainStreet may not have found this study’s results too alarming (673 points out of 1000, after all, isn’t exactly something to write home about). However, earlier this year, another study conducted by the University of Michigan produced similar results: passenger satisfaction with airline service rose 3.2%, the first increase in six years.
Of course, these researchers also discovered that the number of travelers significantly diminished. It seems Americans aren’t happy passengers, we’re just complacent ones.
Which is worse, actually, since it means the airline industry doesn’t deserve the accolades it’s getting. Since MainStreet has never been a big believer in positive reinforcement of negative behavior, we thought we’d create some turbulence by recapping some of the worst airplane experiences this year. Needless to say, it’s a bumpy ride.
The Most Absurd Airline Fees
Over the past year, airlines have added fees for carry-on luggage, blankets, pillows, seat preference, extra leg room, credit card use, bottled water, snacks and, yes, urination. You may even remember a particular incident in which director Kevin Smith was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight because he was too fat to fly. Of course, this ejection never would have happened if Smith had paid a fat fee and purchased an extra seat for his love handles.
And the convenience charges don’t stop there. As another MainStreet article points out, in March, the government attempted to add to your traveling expenses. No wonder less people are flying the unfriendly skies.
Delta Loses Dog
Josiah Allen and girlfriend Erin Dockerling rescued Paco, a dachshund and Jack Russell terrier mix, while on vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Too bad Delta Air Lines (Stock Quote: DAL) promptly lost the dog en route to what was to be his new home. The airline, as restitution, initially offered Allen $200 in Delta vouchers. After the press got involved, they agreed to subsidize the couple for all fees incurred from the rescue (estimated to be about $380.) They also offered another set of $200 airline vouchers.
Poor Paco was never found.
Are Full-Body Scanners Safe?
Full-body scanners are intended to keep us safe, but biochemists at the University of California, San Francisco raised concerns this May about whether or not the radiation emitted from these machines was hazardous to our health. (Their concern stemmed from the fact that the government intends to install 1,000 scanners nationally by the end of next year.) Federal officials maintained that travelers would have to pass through a scanner 5,000 times to get more radiation than a single chest X-ray, but that doesn’t negate this story’s accompanying horror story.
Earlier that month, an airport employee assaulted a co-worker after a full-body scanner revealed that he had small genitals.
Airlines Face Fines For Bumping Travelers
It’s comforting to know that the federal government is making it harder for airlines to bump passengers from flights. What is not so positive is why. Airline bumpings jumped 10% in 2009, the highest total since 2002. Additionally, they soared 17% in this year's first quarter. And, due to the decline in travel, the consequences of losing your seat isn’t always a monetarily subsidized three-hour flight delay. Many passengers have been waiting days to find alternate arrangements.
United Airlines, Shamed Again
This United Airlines (Stock Quote: UAL) public relations nightmare started in August 2009, but didn’t end until March of this year when disgruntled musician Dave Carroll released the last of his three YouTube videos complaining about the airline’s mishandling of his musical instrument. Carroll, who watched airline employees break his $3,500 Taylor guitar, released the viral hit United Breaks Guitars after the airline refused to pay for the damages. Both musician and airline experienced an increase in notoriety. It’s safe to say that only one of them enjoyed it.
Need more incentive to be angry with your airline? Check out these personal stories of airline outrage. You also might want to check out The World’s Most Dangerous Airports before planning your summer travel.
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