4 Questions That Will Fix The Travel Industry

When will we see an airline passenger bill of rights? Why aren’t there 5-star and 2-star airlines? How do you deal with hotels filling review sites with fake testimonials? These questions came up in a conversation about the travel industry I had the other night. Here’s some possible answers:

When will we see an airline passenger bill of rights?

ANSWER: When there’s a fatality. When someone dies because they were stuck on the tarmac for hours and couldn’t get their insulin, we will get an airline passenger bill of rights.

Why aren’t there 5-star airlines and 2-star airlines? Might some customers pay more for slightly better service, instead of universally bad service?

ANSWER: Unknown.

Consumers increasingly rely on online user reviews to make their decisions before booking hotels. Businesses, especially small ones, have figured this out and started stuffing review sites with fake testimonials. Is the solution to use better tools to start ranking user and provide more transparency to their account activity, so that, for instance, you can see whether this person made any other reviews or always leaves hyperbolic praise?

ANSWER: Those tools are great, but better than building a better mousetrap, more consumers need to learn it’s not enough to just not rely on any one review, but that you can’t just rely on any one review site.

What about people who don’t have time to do the extra research?

ANSWER: It needn’t be that time-consuming. Just by adding the word “complaints” to your Google search can reveal all you need to know to make an informed decision.

(Photo: “Oliver 62″)

Comments

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  1. RogerTheAlien says:

    I’ve found airlinequality.com does a pretty decent job of rating airlines. And, even though they’re not recognized internationally by actual airlines, they DO provide star ratings to pretty much every airline in existence. So, for what it’s worth, there ARE 5- and 2-star airlines. And, most US carriers are three-star or below, FWIW.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    Why is it so hard to get compensation from an airline when it severely screws up?

    They told me my plane landed on time when it was 40 minutes late causing me to miss a connecting flight, they lost my luggage in the lost luggage room, they told me they would deliver it the next day and next day called and said it would be a week but that I could come and pick it up myself.

    I asked for compensation, they laughed at me. I wrote my Congressman and about 2 months later I receive a check in the mail.

    • Skaperen says:

      @Blueskylaw: In the mean time, 39 other people asked for compensation, did not bother (or know) to write their congress person, and never received a check. The airline comes out ahead by playing this game. They will continue this until there are penalties for doing so with costs that exceed what they expect to make by ripping people off. This is why we need to make doing the wrong things a crime where it’s done intentionally, and a civil tort where it’s an honest accident.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @Blueskylaw: And on the other hand, I wonder if complaining only made UA hate me more. Similar situation, except that they handed out $250 credit per person usable on their flights only. Took a month and didn’t come; I wrote a complaint to UA. 2 weeks later, my mom’s and my sister’s checks arrive in the mail and I have yet to receive mine. This all happened 2 months ago, BTW. Still no voucher. Not that I’ll be flying them again except in dire circumstances.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        @jamar0303:

        In addition to my Congressman, I also carbon copied to 3 or 4 other agencies that deal with the airlines, one of which makes the statistics about their on time performance that we all hear.

        If all you do is complain to the airline, it wouldn’t surprise me if there is a black check mark next to your name in the computer, but I don’t think they want to screw around with someone when the Congressman’s office comes calling on his behalf.

  3. kaceetheconsumer says:

    Politicians need to fly too, or are they always getting bumped up to first class? Because you’d think they would eventually get pissed off enough to want to change things for themselves, if not their constituents.

    I do think that a major way to knock some sense into the airlines is to do what our family is doing: travel less than we would if it wasn’t such a hassle. Granted, that’s not an option a lot of the time, and certainly not for business, but over the past few years there were times we might have considered a vacation if not for the airlines and airports making travel with a little kid so insanely painful. We were treated so poorly when taking our toddler to meet her Australian relatives that we feel little urge to pay an airline to take us for a holiday.

    Driving from Las Vegas to Austin when we moved so we could move the cars was a pain in the ass, but far, far less painful than flying. Just slow and boring, really.

    • Skaperen says:

      @kaceetheconsumer: You should run for Congress. In your campaign, just say “All I want is a decent seat on an airline and not be ripped off like the general population”.

      • gparlett says:

        @Skaperen: My wife used to work for Congress as a scheduler and has booked many flights for Congress people. My wife’s rep always used American Airlines. AA has a special phone number for congressional bookings where the congress people and their staffs always get special service and far below market rates. American Airlines says that this is only because the US government is a major customer and that they have similar arrangements for other major corporate customers, but I always thought it stunk. This does not keep a congress person from ever being on a delayed flight, but they never get bumped, always get good seats, and pay very little for them. Most congress people fly home to their districts every weekend and yet never deal with the hassles we do.

        I always felt this was unethical, at the time we were in DC I was working for a news bureau and pitched it to several reporters, but basically just got shrugs in return.

        • s73v3r says:

          @gparlett: Well, on the one hand, if you have most of Congress flying home and back every weekend, that is a lot of flights and a lot of business. It doesn’t surprise me that they’d offer a discount to try and get some of that. However, I think it’d be nice if they experienced some of the crap we have to go through too.

      • kaceetheconsumer says:

        @Skaperen: Hahaha, too bad I’m not a citizen. :D

        @jamar0303: We have heard that Singapore Airlines is excellent, but it tends to be United/Air New Zealand that has the more frequent flights. However, I’m angry enough at how Air New Zealand treated us last time that I will not fly them again!

        @gparlett: Yeah, sounds a bit unethical to me, and explains a lot. :/

    • jamar0303 says:

      @kaceetheconsumer: If you’re going to Australia, there’s nothing you can do about security, but I highly recommend flying one of the Asian carriers over any of the American/Australian carriers.

    • Tim says:

      @kaceetheconsumer: Politicians do travel … pretty often. They might just pay for first, because it’s our tax dollars that pay for their travel.

      One time Rep. Peter DeFazio, who basically invented the TSA, got pulled to the side during a screening on his way to DC. He said security was “stupid,” and even pulled a sort of “do you know who I am?” thing.

      [seattletimes.nwsource.com]

    • colorisnteverything says:

      @kaceetheconsumer:

      Senator Lugar (R-IN) has been known to fly out of Dulles or Reagan coach. I have known two people that have sat next to him on two flights. He could definitely afford more. And, despite the fact that he is busy and tired, he still made conversation with them both. I am proud that he is my senator in this regard. No private planes here :)

  4. Stomper says:

    Don’t know how to prove I’m not a shill, but my family flies Southwest Airlines whenever that is an option. No frills, but courteous, friendly, reliable and inexpensive. That’s all I’m really asking for. I can appreciate that some people want a 5-star experience — and I might too, if I was flying more than 6-8 hours. Most of the time, though, I just want to get there without problems or delays.

    • Etoiles says:

      @Stomper: That’s why I fly JetBlue or Southwest, in that order. (I fly a lot but really hate doing it; it’s worth a little extra $$$ to me to have the TV.)

      JetBlue is also stellar about compensation if anything does go wrong. I had an epic fail getting to NYC from DC after Thanksgiving a couple of years ago (most of it wasn’t JetBlue’s fault; there had been a major snowstorm and then one of the replacement planes had a mechanical difficulty) and my $100 voucher (for a $59 flight) beat me home. Similarly, I had a $25 voucher show up the day after a flight I took this summer was delayed — it was a 20-minute delay and that time is built into the flight schedule on that route so I barely even noticed. I was on the ground within 3 minutes of the originally scheduled time.

  5. jamesdenver says:

    #1 – you always have your insulin with you, but food is another story. (from a type 1 diabetic.)

    #2 – I agree with being prepared. I give wide berths to my connection times, often take early morning flights because it’s more likely the plane will be there waiting (overnight,) and schedule myself on airlines with multiple flights per day, (United/Southwest from Denver vs Continental or somewhere that just flies to their hub)

    I take eight-10 round trips per year, and have never had a problem more than a delay of an hour or so.

    As much as I hate the TSA I smile and am professional and polite, (and I don’t stop even if they’re not,) It gets me through and keeps me under the radar.

    I actually enjoy traveling, and I like flying too. To be able to get on a plane and wake up in Europe or South America is still pretty cool to me.

    People expect so little that walk into an airport with a negative ‘tude just ready to bitch and complain. I’m the opposite- I am excited about traveling and enjoy it, and don’t let the huffy malaligned miserable folks get me down.

    I’ve found wonderful guest houses and places to stay all via the ‘net, blog posts, and Tripadvisor. Any savvy net user can filter through the BS and figure out which posts are shills and which are just high maintenance posters who wanted 5 star service from a 2 star hostel.

    james [www.futuregringo.com]

    • jamar0303 says:

      @jamesdenver: I’m excited about traveling, but that doesn’t mean I walk into the airport happy; not in America, at least. China-Japan wasn’t so bad. If Japan would do our airport security I’d be a perfectly happy traveler (they’ve had a machine to test liquids since who knows when; why isn’t the US catching on?).

      • jamesdenver says:

        @jamar0303:

        I agree – and of course I’ve been annoyed the few times the TSA needs to paw through my stuff. — and I’ve written plenty of times about how surly our customs/immigration folks are.

        But my point is a lot of folks enter the airport/travel environment expecting to be pissed off, or looking for a fight – and it’s not a good way to start any “relationship” with a CSR, company, etc…

        • jamar0303 says:

          @jamesdenver: And on that I disagree. I’ve never gone in looking for a fight. 50% of the time I get one (the other 50% being outside America). I’m just happy most of my travel is international. If only Amtrak was a viable alternative the way rail travel is viable in China/Japan/Europe/etc (someone’s going to say something about America’s size, and I’m going to counter with the fact that Russia has been running the Trans-Siberian railway just fine for the past however long it’s been around).

        • colorisnteverything says:

          @jamesdenver:

          Agreed. When I flew home from Toronto into O’Hare once, I was sorely disappointed in my fellow passengers. I don’t arrive smiling, but I do understand that some things are beyond even the airline’s control. Air Canada put us on a plane and got us off quickly because of a mechanical problem. We were switched to another plane.

          Most of the passengers were businessmen and women. They were rude, obnoxious, and yelling at AC personnell. One man insisted on bring a carryon CLEARLY bigger that the regulation onto the plane and SHOVED it into the overhead on the slightly smaller plane and couldn’t get it to go. Oh. My. God. He swore at our flight attendant.

          To make up for the inconvenience, they gave us drinks. The crew was brilliant about things. Really nice, trying to make up for our lost time. People still were highly upset. The guy with the luggage stood up as we were about to land and verbally assaulted an attendant. I was so irritated with everyone and embarassed that I apologized to the flight attendants in French for their behavior when I left. I was very, very tired just like everyone else, but I was trying to stay positive and not get upset like a 2 year old.

          And yes, we were only 15 minutes late at O’Hare. So, all of that for NOTHING.

    • subtlefrog says:

      @jamesdenver: I agree insulin (for the whole trip) should be on you at all times. But the delays that have been reported, of 5 hours on the tarmac – those are more what have people concerned, I think. Maybe you don’t have enough food with you for a long flight PLUS a 5 hour delay. And really, why should you have to plan for this sort of thing? It’s rare, yes, neither you nor I have experienced it, and I travel relatively frequently, but it happens.

      I completely agree about your attitude going into it, though. If you go in cranky, expect to be treated poorly. What incentive does someone have to go out of their way to be nice to you if you are rude?

  6. irishpilot84 says:

    you can rate the airlines any way you want but when it comes down to it the consumer will go with the worst airline to save 10 bucks. You will also see people “save” by going with the cheapest airfare but then realize on travel day that they have just signed up for a connection in phoenix, AZ that they only have 30 minutes to make and are going to spend an extra 2-3 hours trying to get wherever they are going.

    the American consumer is trying to save a nickle by spending a dollar.

    • irelienonA says:

      @irishpilot84: This is exactly the problem. Everyone wants first class service for $150-$200 RT fares. The airline industry has not raised its fares in accordance with operating costs due to fear of angering passengers; ironically, they’ve dealt with this by cutting services and standards to such a minimum it’s probably ended up angering passengers even more.

    • kwheless says:

      @irishpilot84: If you’re flying within the US, which airlines are the “worst airlines”? I’d be glad to pay a little more to get better service, but I’ve had terrible service (and good service) on all the major airlines. I just don’t see that much difference between Delta, United, US Air, etc., so why pay more if they’re all the same? I can’t think of any major airline within the US that is “better” than the others.

      (I can’t speak about Southwest because until recently, they didn’t fly out of any airports near where I lived, so I’ve never used them. Unfortunately, if you need to fly from X to Y, you can only fly on the airlines that go from X to Y.)

      • s73v3r says:

        @kwheless: I’ve had really good experiences with both JetBlue and Virgin America, although those two don’t fly everywhere. I used to fly NWA, as they were the only one that went to my hometown, but I haven’t been on them since they merged with Delta.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      @irishpilot84: I will generally care a great deal if there is a choice and generally choose the more expensive ticket if I know service is better – especially with transatlantic flights. I used to fly Virgin, but can’t because they don’t fly out of there in the winter. It sucks, in short. To go to Luxembourg, I had little choice. It was $900.00 for NWA and $1300.00 for American. I don’t like either airline much, would have preferred to fly air france, but it wasn’t even a choice. So, of course, I went with the reasonable $900.00 and won’t expect great service.

      My parents ALWAYS fly southwest because it is the best. My father HATES AA because they always lost his luggage, so he refuses to fly them. Southwest is their favorite choice. Usually the cheapest, but not necessarily, but they always choose it.

      Virigin is my favorite choice. Then KLM. Then Air France. Then no one pretty much. Then it is just your average US airline, which sucks. I won’t fly AA generally or BA. Both suck.

  7. irelienonA says:

    My boyfriend is a pilot, and the problem with the ‘airline industry’ as a whole is the entire business model as it was created is not viable. People want first class service for $100RT fares and let’s face it – that is never going to happen. The pilots are all overworked and underpaid (some regionals make $20k or less); flight attendants are paid a pittance as well.

    Back in 1977, according to aerochannel.com (and you can find similar stats elsewhere), a ticket from LA to NYC was $412. That’s $1485 in 2008 US dollars. (Uh, wait. That’s how many Australian dollars? I digress, I don’t want to know.)

    While I certainly agree some of their policies are anti consumer and just awful, these companies are out to make a profit. They can’t raise fares they way they should due to fear of public outcry, so instead they’re cutting service, perks, etc. Bottom line is flying used to be a luxury or a special event – now it’s treated as a common means of travel if a car trip is more than 3 to 4 hours. Personally? After having Delta (who are usually great, btw) lose my bag on 3 of four flights, being stuck in an AirTran tarmac for 2hours due to some idiot at LGA spraying de-icer ON THE PLANE…well, I’d be willing to shell out some additional $$ to avoid all of that crap.

    • treimel says:

      @irelienonA:

      Stopped reading after “Delta, who are great by the way…”

      • jamar0303 says:

        (stupid commenting system)

        @treimel: Seconded. Delta is the airline that’s left my aunt stranded in Atlanta when an assistant was specifically requested (wheelchair AND translation help because she only speaks Chinese) to help her get through Customs/Immigration and get her to the connecting flight. She made it, but by sheer luck. Epic fail, and I won’t be flying them anytime soon.

        And I need to raise the example of int’l airlines; how do ANA, Singapore, Thai, etc provide decent service at reasonable prices, then? Maybe that’s the solution- dump all the legacies and let some more foreign airlines (we’ve already got Virgin, that’s a step in the right direction) fly domestic routes for a little while.

        • Stomper says:

          @jamar0303: Not sure about the specific airlines you named, but many overseas airlines are owned (or at least reliably subsidized) by their national governments. Many less populous countries simply don’t have enough travelers to support a private airline, while some larger nations (like China) prefer the control over air travel. Thus, not a fair comparison to US airlines, despite the sporadic government support the domestics receive.

          • jamar0303 says:

            @Stomper: ANA is private. You may have a point about the others. Oddly enough, in Japan it’s JAL (that gets “reliably subsidized”) that’s floundering financially (Delta was prepared to buy a minority share of them; that would definitely be the end, but the government came to their senses at the last minute and helped out themselves) while ANA (private) is doing just fine.

        • god_forbids says:

          @jamar0303: I would guess that – gov’t mandated or not – wheelchair services and Chinese translators are not on top of the list for airlines that decrease leg room until our knees are in our chests to make a buck.

          The US airline industry is not built for anyone who doesn’t speak English, walk on their own two legs, or have any other debilitating conditions whatsoever. It’s like setting the discrimination clock back to “1820″. :-(

      • irelienonA says:

        @treimel: After that read “Although they lost my bag 75% of the time” to paraphrase. Basically, only great in comparison to how horrible other flight experiences have been, with the exception of Iceland Air, which is wonderful. And believe me, I know it’s subjective. That aunt stranded thing was pretty awful.

    • floraposte says:

      @irelienonA: The pilots aren’t all overworked and underpaid, though. Captains with the majors make good money, as do cargo captains; even with the regionals a captain can do all right, though there’s a huge difference between regionals and majors. It’s the lower-seniority positions, especially with the regionals, that are paid a pittance. That hope of eventual seniority and decent pay is one thing that keeps them going in the low-paid eras.

      • irelienonA says:

        @floraposte: It takes years to become a captain now, though – and believe me, I’m hardly going to argue that a $300k a year UPS pilot has it rough. In most industries you have to ‘work your way to the top’, and that’s how it should be. My point was more that due to the extremely lax FAA regulations, Airlines can have their pilots fly the maximum of 8 hours a day (most passenger pilots fly only 6) which doesn’t include actual ‘on duty’ time. This saves them money, just as poor customer service, too few people at the baggage claim, and any other cost cutting technique does.

    • oneandone says:

      @irelienonA: Just because airlines are out to make a profit doesn’t mean they have to be boneheaded about it. Having gate agents who can honestly explain why there are delays and deal with passenger concerns would go a long way into improving people’s flying experience.

      Yes, relative airfare prices now are much lower than they were 30-40 years ago, but flying is a lot more essential now than it was previously. Families live farther apart, people have less time off for vacation/visiting relatives (making a 10 hour drive a lot less feasible than a 2 hour flight), and then there’s business travel. It’s treated like a common means of transportation because that’s what it has become. But even the most common means should meet a decent standard.

      • irelienonA says:

        @oneandone: That’s actually a really good point – it is more essential in light of how global and geographic locations have become less relevant in other aspects of business/personal life.

        And yes, I’d agree on the gate agent thing. Basically they’re all clones of the agent from “Meet the Parents”.

    • jaubele1 says:

      @irelienonA: You make some good points, but one thing to keep in mind (and you may already be aware of this but others may not be) is that in 1978 airline fares were controlled by the U.S. federal government.

      The Civil Aeronautics Board, amongst other responsibilities, oversaw fares and had to approve any changes prior to their implementation.

      That body was disbanded by President Regan, with support from the airlines.

      Based upon thirty-one years of evidence it seems safe to say that the airlines haven’t a clue as to how to operate in such as system.

      • irelienonA says:

        @jaubele1: Indeed. Don’t want to get too political about it, as this is more about airline quality and how they treat passengers, but. Yes, the airlines seem oblivious to the fact that discounting a rate $10 doesn’t make a customer happy other than for the 10 minutes after he/she pressed “send” on Expedia.com. Chances are after the flight, a 2 hour delay, cramped seats, delays, etc, that $10 isn’t going to mean so much.

    • duffman13 says:

      @irelienonA: Some Idiot spraying de-icer on the plane? They’re supposed to do that in the winter. It’s better than having control surfaces freeze up and the plane fall out of the sky.

      • irelienonA says:

        @duffman13:

        They’re supposed to spray de-icer on the runway. To de-ice it. Not on the propellers where the chemicals could enter the plane’s internal components.

        • H3ion says:

          @irelienonA: They spray deicer on the plane’s control surfaces and on the leading edges of the wings. One time they didn’t was the Air Florida flight that left National (at the time) and traveled into the Potomac River.

        • treimel says:

          @irelienonA:

          I’m glad you don’t work on the aircraft I fly–it is, in fact, necessary to spray de-icer on the control surfaces of the aircraft itself. Necessary as in, everyone onboard dies if you don’t.

        • duffman13 says:

          @irelienonA: actually they are supposed to. It does nothing to the internal components except for preventing them from forming a layer of ice on them which makes controls stop responding and the engine freeze or stop producing thrust.

          I trust you’d rather arrive at your destination alive rather than a bit late?

  8. bilge says:

    I flew a five-star airline earlier this month (Emirates). My flight was delayed by four hours.

  9. hi says:

    * When will we see an airline passenger bill of rights?

    Probably never, or until they can create one that doesn’t really give anyone any rights. If one is created it will probably do the opposite and take away rights.

    * Why aren’t there 5-star airlines and 2-star airlines? Might some customers pay more for slightly better service, instead of universally bad service?

    Two part question/Two part answer: 1. Because airlines don’t really care as long as they are making money. get it? They don’t care. Is it that hard to beleive? 2. Normal everyday people don’t have the money to care if they get great service. They just want to get where they are going without any hassles and get there in comfortly. Is comfortly a word? I don’t know.

    * Review sites with fake testimonials:

    This is happening all over the place and not just with airline/hotel review sites. It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where people have given up their morals & ethics for dollars & power. This happens more than you think and it’s not limited to the internet and review sites. Television, radio, movies and newspapers and internet sites all sell-out. Where the money comes from doesn’t even matter to them. The military spent close to 300 thousand dollars to give Hollywood big wigs a party for showing the military in good light during the Gulf War. They are still doing this on TV stations and so-called news broadcasts. It’s classic propaganda. And it works the same for internet review sites just as it does for television, radio, etc..

    What about people who don’t have time to do the extra research?

    As you said researching is as easy as opening up google, bing, yahoo, or startpage and typing in a key word. It’s easy to do but you have to use common sense when taking advise on the internet just as you do with TV, radio, newpapers, pretty much everything. So don’t beleive me do your research!

  10. mantari says:

    You also touch on a problem with using the Internet for finding out the truth about something (try Wikipedia on a controversial subject), much less the media. The he-said/she-said presentation style is the easiest to compile, yet contains possibilities and not truths. Until some better comes along, trusted reviews (or analysis of the he-said/she-said) is a good way to go, although more scarce. One hybrid example that sticks out, though: consumersearch.com meta-reviews.

    • PsiCop says:

      @mantari: Re: “The he-said/she-said presentation style is the easiest to compile, yet contains possibilities and not truths.”

      Indeed, there seems to be a presumption on the part of a lot of folks (especially in the mass media) that, if you have enough information from two radically-opposed views of something, that the truth about it will magically emerge from that. This, of course, is nonsense. In the real world, you will never get any “truth” from two competing packages of lies. All you’ll get is obfuscation and befuddlement.

      Not coincidentally, that’s usually what the liars want. Neither radically-opposed side that speaks on a topic, has any incentive in letting the truth about it emerge.

  11. rockelscorcho says:

    The airlines are a prime example of “crap flows down stream.” Just a week ago, flying from Atlanta to south Texas, it was a pain! My wife and I do carry on luggage cause of their outrageous charges, and so does everyone else. Now, the cabin is full, and we can’t put ours anywhere! I have to literally stand in my seat so others can pass me by all while the stewards makes an announcement “please put your luggage away quickly so we can have an on time departure.” Because that is the most important thing. In the end, they check my bag, no fee, and I move on. I do feel sorry for the stewards because you can see the look on their eye doing the math such as “there is not enough damn space on this plane for all this luggage.” If only we had space underneath the plane for luggage!

    But if airlines gave a crap about their customers, they would treat us with some respect. On the way back, we got hungry and bought some food at a restaurant in the airport. God forbid you want food, cause now you need to have your ticket out, luggage ready, food in hand, and hopefully you get your luggage somewhere on the damn plane. While everyone else is trying to hurry up to!

    It just seems that the airline industry has de-evolved backwards where we pay more, get less, are treated like crap, and pushed around. It doesn’t make any sense at all. They need to have a cattle prawn when we land tagging everyone as we leave the plane “Ya! Get off the plane, come on!”

    • Powerlurker says:

      @rockelscorcho:

      In all honesty, they probably don’t care too much about you because they’re pretty sure you’ll jump ship to save ten bucks on your super saver airfare the next time you fly. A couple years ago, the NY Times mentioned that airlines derive about 36% of their revenue from people who pay for business class tickets (and on a typical flight less than half of the business seats will have been paid for, the rest will usually be complimentary upgrades for elite status holders or people who get bumped into them). That’s why airlines expend so much effort to kiss the asses of their most frequent, high-dollar fliers and tend to ignore pretty much everyone else.

      What deregulation and revealed preferences have shown the airlines is that the vast majority of travelers don’t give a crap about customer service anyway, as long as they can get their flight as cheap as possible. So while they may say they want a better customer experience, they clearly don’t find it important enough to pay what it costs.

  12. rockelscorcho says:

    The airlines are a prime example of “crap flows down stream.” Just a week ago, flying from Atlanta to south Texas, it was a pain! My wife and I do carry on luggage cause of their outrageous charges, and so does everyone else. Now, the cabin is full, and we can’t put ours anywhere! I have to literally stand in my seat so others can pass me by all while the stewards makes an announcement “please put your luggage away quickly so we can have an on time departure.” Because that is the most important thing. In the end, they check my bag, no fee, and I move on. I do feel sorry for the stewards because you can see the look on their eye doing the math such as “there is not enough damn space on this plane for all this luggage.” If only we had space underneath the plane for luggage!

    But if airlines gave a crap about their customers, they would treat us with some respect. On the way back, we got hungry and bought some food at a restaurant in the airport. God forbid you want food, cause now you need to have your ticket out, luggage ready, food in hand, and hopefully you get your luggage somewhere on the damn plane. While everyone else is trying to hurry up to!

    It just seems that the airline industry has de-evolved backwards where we pay more, get less, are treated like crap, and pushed around. It doesn’t make any sense at all. They need to have a cattle prawn when we land tagging everyone as we leave the plane “Ya! Get off the plane, come on!”

  13. sir_eccles says:

    Here’s a good one from yesterday. Sitting on the tarmac for an hour and a half while the contracted out maintenance guy tries to fax the paperwork to the central facility. It took half an hour before the cabin crew made any announcement which was only because another pilot was on board and he got up from his seat to tell them to say something. Apparently they have an automated system to rebook connecting flights.

    US Airways of course.

  14. PeterLeppik says:

    We do have better airlines in the U.S., but as others have pointed out, people will endure all manner of hardship to save ten bucks on a round trip ticket.

    My personal favorite is Midwest Airlines, which has larger seats than most other domestic carriers and bakes chocolate chip cookies on board the plane (and they don’t charge extra for the cookies). Midwest is typically $20 more expensive than other airlines but I consider it worth the extra cost.

    You might ask, though, what about the rich people and successful businessmen who can afford to fly first class? Anecdotally, I’ve heard than more of those people are abandoning commercial air travel entirely and flying private jets instead. This is a huge problem for domestic airlines, since one full-price first class ticket can bring in as much revenue as several discounted coach seats.

    For international travel (where private jets aren’t as much of an option because many of them don’t have the range), there’s a thriving business for 5-star service. Just open up the pages of any magazine aimed at the right demographic (Economist, Forbes, etc.) and see how many full-page ads there are for airlines touting their first class service.

    • Powerlurker says:

      @PeterLeppik:

      Yeah, there was an article in either the WSJ or NY Times that mentioned that about 36% of airline revenue comes from paid business class seats, and a good number of business class seats in a plane aren’t even paid for (complementary upgrades and such).

  15. erratapage says:

    I always read the negative reviews before the positive ones. They are usually more entertaining, anyway.

  16. vladthepaler says:

    Searching for complaints only gives you one side of the picture. It’s likely you’ll find complaints about anything, if that’s what you’re trying to find. You’ll conclude that all hotels suck and it’s best to just stay home.

    • jamesdenver says:

      @vladthepaler:

      Exactly

    • floraposte says:

      @vladthepaler: On airlines, I would agree. It’s a huge-scale phenomenon, and statistics are going to be more significant than D00D who rants about “Northworst.” I take anecdote into more consideration with hotels, especially if a complaint is repeated–if three recent travelers mention noise, say, that’s going to mean something to me. Of particular interest are negatives in otherwise positive reviews.

      • jamesdenver says:

        @floraposte:

        Agree. But I’ve seen negatives examples citing that an NYC hotel’s economy room was up five flights of stairs, making it hell for their toddler.

        If there’s only one “high expectation” negative under a 3 star hotel, or say someone wanted 5 star service from a nice hostel – those are kind of funny and almost add some realism in what I expect.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @vladthepaler: Or in my case, stay with familiar people. Went to Kobe, ended up staying in my mom’s friend’s apartment due to worries about hotels. Probably going to do that again for trips to west Japan because it’s more fun than a hotel (quieter location too). Also the people are nicer.

  17. idip says:

    Is it wrong to hope Southwest never gets a “Five Star” rating?

    I mean, I just don’t want them to get all expensive and snooty.

    I like Southwest just the way they are and hope they don’t change, don’t know how I would fly without them. :-(

  18. GiselleBeardchen says:

    I’ve found Tripadvisor reviews to be pretty reliable–as long as you throw out the 5star reviews where the author has only one or two entrees. There are quite a few obvious laughable shill reviews–but they do have the transparency needed for the astude to weed them out.

  19. GiselleBeardchen says:

    astute

  20. shepd says:

    Review issues are easy to deal with. Only accept negative reviews and keep track of the number of them. More negative reviews and it is likely the airline sucks. Kind of like demerit points on your license.

    This works because a company is allowed to astroturf for itself, however, it becomes an actionable offense if they post lies about their competitors, and it’s still a problem if they hire others to do that for them.

  21. Smorgasbord says:

    The easiest and fasted way to solve ALL airline problems is to make it MANDATORY politicians fly on them instead of using corporate jets. The problems will be INSTANTLY fixed.

  22. SgtBeavis says:

    United Breaks Guitars…

    Do we really need any rating for them beyond that?

  23. stormbird says:

    There was an interesting article today in the Wall Street Journal about a man that grew up flying on Pan Am, famous for excellent service. He ended up becoming an airline exec and has built a recreation of a Pan Am cabin in his garage. link

    @rockelscorcho

    You’re right that the fees for non-carry on luggage make the cabin crowded, unpleasant and unsafe. I doubt that the occasional delays over everyone cramming things in the overhead bin saves the airline any money over having the luggage handled by employees. The problem is that execs can see the profit from cutting corners but can’t see the profit lost from people that fly less or not at all because it’s so damn uncomfortable.

    Truth be told, what makes the experience so miserable usually isn’t within a hundred feet of the plane. The TSA combines criminal incompetence with Soviet-level customer relations. Check-in and counter workers are possibly less competent but at least they can’t get you arrested. Airlines could hire a dozen more workers per airport and rewrite the rulebook and tremendously improve customer satisfaction.