Fliers Are Officially Fed Up With Crappy Airline Service

You may be thinking to yourself, “Congratulations, you’ve written the world’s most obvious headline!” And you’d be right, but according to J.D. Power and associates there could be something of a sea change going on in the universe of airline complaints. It seems that crappy customer service may have reached a Gladwellian “tipping point” — more customers are choosing which airline to fly based on factors other than price.

Price declined as the most frequently reported reason for choosing a carrier in 2008, down to 39 percent of survey respondents.

The fact that consumers claim to value good customer service, but routinely choose to give their business to the carrier with the lowest fare, is usually blamed for the current trend towards higher fees and awful customer service. J.D. Power & Associates concluded that airlines should invest in their employees to improve customer service before its too late…

“Across the airline experience, from check-in, to the flight, to deplaning, passengers are being affected by the ramifications of carriers making staff cutbacks and have expressed that performance and attitudes of airline staff are suffering,” said Sam Thanawalla, director of the global hospitality and travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “In this unstable industry environment, it is critical that airlines invest in their employees as a means to enhance the customer experience, as there is a strong connection between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Those airlines that focus on keeping their employees informed and motivated will be better able to change negative consumer sentiment and truly differentiate themselves.”

Can an airline’s service get bad enough to make you pay more to avoid a certain airline?

In other news, JetBlue ranked highest overall in their survey for the third straight year.

Overall Satisfaction in the Airline Industry Declines to a Three-Year Low Primarily Due to People Factors, Rather than High Prices [JD Power]
(Photo: whatatravisty )


Edit Your Comment

  1. jamesdenver says:

    I might may more to fly an airline with more flights per day. If you fly on some half charter airline with ONE flight a day or even every two days you’re completely screwed if that aircraft is down.

    While an airline with more fights may be still packed they’re more likely to get you home faster.

    Not service issues I know – but an example of when it makes sense to pay more.

  2. tequilajunction says:

    The airline experience is already bad enough that I choose to drive rather than fly whenever possible. Improving customer service is a good start, but there’s a lot of factors outside of any one airline’s control that are contributing to the problem.

  3. MaxSmart32 says:

    I had a wonderful experince flying on Continental a month ago. Actual dinner service, friendly, competent flight staff, brand-spankin new planes…it made me think to myself that I would fly on Continental again…so I would totally agree that good service trumps price – to a point.

  4. MikeB says:

    Last week I flew on JetBlue for the first time and was very impressed with everything, except for the fact that the radio in my seat didn’t work and I was stuck with watching TV the whole flight.
    We had a delay flying from Charlotte to JFK, there was plenty of communication from the Flight Attendents and pilot and they handed out water and snacks while we waited.

  5. DVnLRmxZBj5 says:

    You are asking the wrong question.

    I simply don’t fly anymore. So, years ago, airline service got so bad that I avoid ALL airlines. I can’t be the only one.

  6. MikeB says:

    @mbouchard: Bah, attendants

  7. opposablethumb says:

    This is news? In my world, the trouble started when United was bought by its employees. From that day on, United has been on a precipitous downhill slide and I will only fly them if there are absolutely no other choices. Their employees are so hostile and so arrogant that I want nothing to do with the company. American isn’t much better. Delta is usually acceptable, but only because I have a relative who works for them who can fix any problems I encounter. I do fly Northwest and have had no problems with them. Allegiant is my new favorite. It may be no-frills, but it gets me from Point A to Point B with no fuss and no muss. And they’re nearly always on time.

  8. katzeroo says:

    Maybe all I’ve had is ho-hum CS and experiences with different airlines and I don’t know any better or maybe it’s cause I fly only coach. I probably just don’t know the good life of FF upgrades and business or first class service.

    All else being equal, I’ll probably stick with Delta since I have a bazillion miles with them and they have been fairly ‘OK’ by me. I’m tall so the only thing I wish for is more leg room. I flew and MD-88 recently. Not again, if I can help it.

  9. We tend to get the level of business and government that we’re willing to put up with. This is a great example of that. I am so glad to hear that the sheeple have had enough. Perhaps now I won’t have to put-up with grossly inferior service when I fly.

  10. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I heard, unofficially from the travel agency my company works with, that there are airlines that they will not allow us to use, regardless of price. Hmmm.

  11. trecool95 says:

    I fly whatever airline bumps me and gives me flight vouchers. There’s an upside to overbooking.

  12. MercuryPDX says:

    @DVnLRmxZBj5: You’re not the only when. I only fly when absolutely necessary or if someone else is paying.

  13. MercuryPDX says:

    (when = one… sigh… where’s my coffee)

  14. georgi55 says:

    Why can’t the airlines realize that even if things screw up badly like mechanical or weather problem, if the customer service rep takes care of those affected with smile and courtesy, rather than “don’t give a s**t” attitude, most people will not hate them so much?

  15. jamesdenver says:


    Only five comments and the “I DON’T FLY” comment shows up. That’s great if you’re retired, don’t mind driving days on end to reach anyplace, or don’t leave the country or your back yard.

    I and many others enjoy visiting new places and barring the QE2 or cargo ship flying is the only option.

    Comments like “Don’t Fly” are just as useless to this discussion as this thread is to you.

    james [www.futuregringo.com]

  16. JumpJackFlap says:

    The best airline that I always try to fly is Midwest. You cannot beat their service in my opinion. Two across business seating in all of their standard planes, on time, courteous staff, and fresh baked cookies on each ride. Plus, they have several destinations, especially to the east coast.

  17. I have pretty much sworn off flying (unless completely unavoidable). Half so because of being treated like cargo by airlines; half so because of the ridiculousness of the ‘security’ hoops.

  18. theczardictates says:

    @MercuryPDX: Ditto that. My threshold these days is above 5 hours and still rising, unless it’s one of the few routes that JetBlue flies from my local hub.

    There’s one route I used to fly United regularly. In theory it takes me an hour longer to drive, but the flight was so consistently delayed or canceled, on average it’s faster to drive.

  19. haoshufu says:

    This article is so misleading. The web page title says “Unitied Airlines: Fliers Are Officially Fed Up With Crappy …”. Then there is only one picture of American Airlines napkin. The article then talks about JD Powers survey that not necessarily focus on UA or AA.

  20. miburo says:

    I think you are going to see this trend for a whole lot of American companies not just the airlines. In general CS has gone way done the drain and I am constantly finding myself willingly paying more when I know there is better CS.

  21. davere says:

    I will pay extra if it means avoiding United or USAirways.

  22. I’ll second that. I used to be a Northwest flyer only, and racked up tons of frequent flyer miles on them. I sold my miles to a friend and now I’ll fly any other airline. Nothing’s worth the shit they started giving me each time I flew.

  23. katylostherart says:

    yeah i still have to generally go by price, but i avoid american like the plague. i’m now adding, united/delta/usairways whatever the hell the merger status of all that is. virgin and ba are great carriers.

  24. bohemian says:

    @DVnLRmxZBj5: I am in the same camp. I won’t fly unless there is some extremely urgent matter that that requires me to be somewhere in a hurry. I don’t care if someone else is offering to pay either. I lucked out that one employer had their own private plane, that I had no problem with. Another employer wanted me to fly to Chicago for a meeting that didn’t have anything to do with my department, I declined to go. I offered to drive or take the train if they really wanted me there that bad. I also avoid any jobs that state there is travel involved. I flew frequently pre-9-11 and it sucked then. I have zero inclination to do so.

    As far as personal travel I would rather wait and save up enough extra time and take the train or the QM2 and such or drive.

  25. Nighthawke says:

    The last time I flew was two months post-9/11. The lines at the inspection points were two blocks long at HOU, and all guards had at least AR-15’s, one was seen wielding an AR-15 HBAR with a M203 ‘nade launcher slung to it. I don’t think he only had nonlethal rounds in his bandoleer.

    I flew Southwest, which everyone knows is the best in the biz on nearly all counts. The flights went well, just everyone was a bit tense and eyes were wandering a bit. I was glad to get on the ground at my destination and flew back home on time without any problems, save for a lousy case of strep throat to keep me company on the way home.

  26. Ein2015 says:

    “Can an airline’s service get bad enough to make you pay more to avoid a certain airline?”


  27. JennQPublic says:

    It would cost me about $200 to fly to L.A. and back, or take 8 hours to drive there. I prefer to drive. Between driving to the airport, waiting through security, worrying about my bags (OMG, is my lotion in a 4.5 oz bottle?!?), the few hours I save aren’t worth it in the headaches.

    Plus, when you drive you get to see things and meet people between home and your destination. I prefer to make the journey a good part of the trip, instead of spending a couple of hours in an airplane fuming.

  28. ClevelandCub says:

    @speedwell: That doesn’t surprise me a bit. When traveling for my company we do all of our reservations (flight, rental car, hotel) on a web site – think Expedia or Travelocity designed for a corporate user. We have preferred airlines that we “must” use, unless we can absolutely justify the use of an alternate carrier – and it’s got to be good – like saving a boatload of money.

  29. MasterDave says:

    I think the problems of the infrequent traveler are significant compared to the frequent flyer. At least if you’re flying all the time, you have a reasonable basis of comparison and can identify when an airline is just having a bad day or if their service is entirely crappy every time. Unfortunately the person who flies 2-3 times a year (if that) will be entirely turned off to an airline forever for a single bad experience. I know that as a consumer I’ll sure never fly United again, even if their tickets end up being the cheapest on any site I search. But, I can say that I don’t know if it was just a horrible day at the airport for them or what because I’d never used them before and I have no intention of being a repeat customer.

    Meanwhile, Virgin America was a great flight and I’d love to fly them again if they’d just add enough places I care about visiting. Then again, I don’t know if I just got the “new airline” treatment and they’re going to be yet another crap airline in a year or what. It’s tough to say!

  30. quirkyrachel says:

    My dad travels a lot for business. They’ve recently decided that it’s just not worth the time and hassle to fly under a certain distance (and that distance was just raised).

  31. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    @DVnLRmxZBj5: Nope, you’re not the only one. Me too.

    @jamesdenver: I’m nowhere near retirement, have been to see many many far away places already and have kids to educate so between all that the relatively cheap car trip is looking pretty damn good compared to peed on seats, poor service, so-called security searches and petty charges. (Wow – that’s a long sentance!)

  32. Jubilance22 says:

    “Can an airline’s service get bad enough to make you pay more to avoid a certain airline?”

    It already has. I refuse to fly certain airlines (Spirit, AA, and United) not due to cost, but because of how I’ve been treated by the staff. No way am I giving my money to a company that treats me like crap. If folks are willing to take crappy, limited, or even no service in exchange for their money, then they are idiots and they deserve what they get. Folks need to stop making decisions solely on price and then complaining when they don’t get what they paid for.

  33. Jubilance22 says:

    @ClevelandCub: My company does the same thing, but the great thing is that we have several preferred airlines and hotels, so generally I do not have to fly an airline that I hate.

  34. Nissan288 says:

    i avoid US Airways like the black plague.

    delay my luggage 10 times in a row and you get a black mark in my book.

  35. csdiego says:

    I’ve been paying extra to avoid flying USAir for years. I haven’t flown AirTran since their accident ten+ years ago. American has also been slightly lower on my list.

  36. ARP says:

    @MasterDave: It’s often a bit skewed because frequent fliers are often treated better. I remember when I had “status” and got upgraded, could get on standby flights no problem, etc. But you’re right, infrequent travelers don’t know if that’s the norm or not. But then again, why does it matter? They say its harder to get a client than to keep one, so their attitude should be driven by that truism.

    But its good to see that people are finally starting to realize that price isn’t everything. I hope it continues and we get a resegmentation of the market so that if I want to pay more, I get better service. The problem is that the airlines and I seem to have a misunderstanding about how much more that should be.

  37. SuffolkHouse says:

    I would pay more to avoid certain airlines. I’d like to know what questions were asked and how in their poll.

    I wouldn’t fly America Airlines and I would avoid United. I think they both suck eggs. American is the absolute worst I’ve flown with in my life. I flew both in the states and overseas. The entertainment on the overseas flight was busted. They screwed up my connection and then lost my luggage.

    They had no way of telling me where my luggage was. They gave me numbers to call at which no one answered.

    They were a complete and utter disaster from end to end. I was treated like a person who was there only for the cheap fare. Problem is, the flight was paid for my a university, and wasn’t cheap.

    Strange how my most pleasant flying experiences have been with SouthWest – ALWAYS (and I don’t have stock in SW).

  38. zibby says:

    @jamesdenver: Dude, I hear ya, but you just gotta deal. ANY post about flying will have a bunch of people that can’t wait to tell everybody that they don’t fly. ANY post dealing with pizza will have a few comments to the effect of, “I don’t know why anybody would BUY pizza, I just make my own at home and it’s ever so much better!” There are others, of course.

  39. balthisar says:

    Five hours is about my driving threshold, too. Maybe six, depending on the airline and the price.

    Will I pay more for a ticket on a better airline? Hell, yes! My threshold for cost consciousness is about $300. If flying with my wife, it goes up to $400 for the pair (which is like going down to $200 for me alone). Again, depending on destination. Detroit to Chicago? I’ll probably drive (see above), but if I’m only going to be on the plane for 50 minutes, I’ll pick among the lowest fares. For any flight times over about an hour and half, then my comfort is worth the extra money.

  40. jamesdenver says:


    I get toppings from the salad bar and use pita bread as a crust. SO much better!

    anyway yeah flying sucks – but seriously as many horror stories as there are, and TSA nonsense – its still cool that I can leave work Friday night, go spend a weekend in New York or Montreal, or S.F. and come back to work Monday morning.

    No young person should be swayed by that – or better they should get their ass on a foreign (to us) carrier and see how respect and good treatment really work.

    I love this article: While our airlines are teetering on BK and extinction Lufthansa’s profitable and has money to burn restoring old planes :)


  41. picardia says:

    I don’t pay more for different airlines — the screwup levels seem fairly high industry-wide — but I do pay more for a nonstop flight. That way there is only one set of delays/boarding weirdness/etc. to deal with instead of two or three.

    Also, I haven’t checked a suitcase in at least five years, possibly longer. I am taking my first two-week vacation later this year and wondering if I can manage in carryons only again. I’m hoping so. Taking the lost/misrouted baggage element out of it helps cut down on hassle, and if you do wind up delayed/canceled/bumped to another airline, it’s so much better to have your stuff with you.

  42. ARP says:

    @balthisar: My driving threshold is about 4 hours. But I live off Public Transportation to the airport, so its very convenient for me.

    My threshold would go up depending on the length and importance of the flight. So on a Chicago to New York flight, I’d pay another $100 or so to be treated humanely. New York to Atlanta, I’d pay around $200. On short hops (NY to DC), I probably wouldn’t go above $50 since its such a short flight and I could probably tolerate the cattle cars for that time.

  43. Difdi says:

    Definitely. I’ve been willing to pay more to avoid obnoxious airlines for some time now. But the trouble is, most are so crappy that there’s not alot of difference between them, so I go with the cheaper one. Had I a reliable way to rating service, politeness, and such…I’d gladly pay more for those things. But I’ve never found a website or publication that actually collects such data and is reliable.

  44. consumersaur says:

    Air travel is a perfect storm of inconvenience and frustration.

    The moist winds of a failing business model trying to rapidly cut costs by cutting services and customer expectations are blending with the frigid downdraft of largely useless federal security mandates and have collided over mountain ranges of overzealous enforcers and ill-equipped and grumpy airline staff.

  45. ARP says:

    @Difdi: Exactly, if they all suck, why not pay the least for the suckiness? They all seem to be in a race to the bottom.

    Some of the problem is the suckiness is beyond their control. Overcrowded skies, decaying infrastructure, crazy weather, etc. can’t be controlled by them, but many view that as a part of their overall service experience (which they should). But, there is a lot that can be done in the areas they can control, and they just don’t have the will to.

  46. ram0029 says:

    I forgo flying as much as possible. With the wait times at airports, arriving early, inevitable delays these days, if the trip is 12 hours or less, flying is out completely. Since I do not live in a major hub city, there is almost always layovers, changing planes etc. further increasing the chances for delays and longer trips.

    When I do fly, it is only on Northwest, Express Jet, or Southwest. Express Jet for me has had by far the best record but the routes are limited. Ever since American Airlines refused to give me the credit for tickets I had paid for for people who had cancelled (they issued the credit in the name of the ticketholder even though they did not pay for the ticket), I refuse to use them. A month later Northwest cancelled two tickets for me I had purchased for others and put the credit in my name, so they get a star and my business when possible. Paid $75 more per ticket for the last 3 I bought just to use them.

    So ya, I will pay a reasonable amount more for reasonable customer services and policies designed with the customer in mind instead of simply trying to figure out another way to part a customer from their money with as little effort as possible.

  47. I have paid more to fly on an airline with better customer service.

  48. @ARP: “My threshold would go up depending on the length and importance of the flight.”

    Yes, currently I’m primarily willing to pay more when flying internationally. I’m willing to pay a little more for comfort when flying out west and driving isn’t an option, but I’m willing to pay a fair bit more to fly a preferred airline internationally.

  49. The_Legend says:

    I have to fly for my work. And usually the cheapest airlines. So I get what I pay for (not much). Sometimes the TSA screeners are nicer than the crew.

  50. @trecool95: Are you Carl Weathers?

  51. I agree that the staff at UNITED are rude, bitter and generally hostile toward passengers, as-if we are responsible for their plight these past few years. I understand why they’re not happy, having lost all sorts of benefits and salary increases, but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that they’re alienating the very people who pay their salaries through ticket sales.

    ANOTHER KEY CONCEPT that they don’t seem to recognize is that now my income tax dollars are going to pay their pension. While in bankruptcy, UNITED pulled one of the sleaziest corporate maneuvers since ENRON. They under-funded their pension plans and then just basically threw-up their hands and tossed the entire problem into the government’s lap by saying that the pension benefit guaranty corporation (or something like that) would have to bail-out the pension plans. It’s like the FDIC insuring customers’ bank deposits.

    Can you imagine how infuriating it is to have a bitter stewardess treat you like shit when you’re traveling on business to make a paycheck, only to have part of it taken away to pay her pension? Unbelievable.

  52. I flew Continental recently. They served food at mealtime. Real food. The flight attendants were nice. The airplanes were clean. The tickets were $80.00 more than American’s price for the same route, with no first bag fee.

    Damn right I’ve reached a tipping point. $50.00 (we’d have paid two checked bag fees with American) is a reasonable premium to pay for not being nickel-and-dimed to death and served a .5 oz. bag of pretzels. I hope other domestic travelers wake up and smell the coffee – fuel prices are going to stay high – start buying based on service, not price.

  53. @katzeroo: The type of jet you fly very rarely has anything to do with the distance between seats – also called the seat pitch. A 31-inch seat pitch on a 737 is the same as a 31-inch pitch on an MD-88. Since seats are modular, the airline is usually using the same seats in economy class on jets from different manufacturers, so if you’re stuck with a knee-crushing 29-inch pitch on the first leg, there’s nothing to look forward to on your next flight.

  54. bcsus83 says:

    I find that I hate dealing with horrible airline service so much that I’d rather spend the money for $4.00+ per gallon gas and take an extra day each way and just drive. Then I don’t have to deal with it, and I can take as much luggage as I want without having to cough up an extra $25 per bag, and my kids can have drinks for our entire trip, and not have to pay $3 a bottle for them on the other side of security. ;)

  55. overbysara says:

    I will pay extra to avoid United or Northwest.

    And before flying I must first have no non-flying options. The sad thing is… I LOVE airplanes and flying. But the commercial airline industry is just… fucked up.

  56. @Cranky Customer: Can you imagine how infuriating it is to have a bitter stewardess treat you like shit when you’re traveling on business to make a paycheck, only to have part of it taken away to pay her pension? Unbelievable.

    All things considered, some of those flight attendants have plenty of reasons to be ticked off, although rudeness is never called for. American’s less senior pilots and all flight attendants have taken several pays cuts since 9/11 while dorks like Gerald Arpey (CEO of American) pose with $20,000 airplane models on the front pages of the in-flight magazine and have huge pay packages and parachutes while weeping crocodile tears over the state of the airline industry.

  57. blong81 says:

    You know why flying is so shitty now? Because the government got involved.

  58. dugn says:

    We’re done traveling by plane. The inconvenience, the fees, the costs are just too much trouble for our family. We use our kids as an excuse; “It’s too much trouble to fly with two small kids,” we say. But the real reason is the price, trouble, cramped airplanes, long waits and the security lines.

    When we absolutely have to fly, I skip lower fare options from airlines I loathe (Delta, United) for ones I like (Southwest, Alaska).

  59. DallasPath says:

    If they fly the routes you need, then Midwest FTW. Wide seats, leg room, and chocolate chip cookies. And they frequently have awesome fare sales, so price has actually been cheaper for me many times.

    I’m unfortunate enough to live in Dallas, where American practically has a monopoly. Not only does their service suck, but their rates are very high to fly out of DFW.

  60. jamesdenver says:


    So how are you going to take your kids overseas for a vacation?

  61. kepler11 says:

    Friends, let me give you a tip if you have to fly these days, because few if any people posting messages on stories like this give any useful information that you can actually use. And most people reading stories here seem to be infrequent fliers who have bad experiences because they don’t know how *not* to.

    The bottom line is this: if you want to be treated well by an airline, become one of their elite members, which is generally someone who accumulates 25,000 miles or more per year with a single airline’s frequent flier program.

    The reason is that airlines these days are forced to focus on their most profitable and reliable customers. OK, every business does it to some extent, but airlines especially do this, because they can track who flies with them, how much you spend with them, and your loyalty. And unfortunately these days, you kind of have to prove your loyalty to an airline before they give you the perks (which in an absolute sense, are maybe just what normal customers should receive, but still). Just an average customer who flies American, United, Delta, or any of the major carriers *without a frequent flier number on their ticket*, is a no one.

    Ask yourself, when you fly, is your frequent flier number on your boarding pass? This is the one question that immediately identifies who is a complete air travel amateur and who will get shafted when things go bad. People who fly without even considering to put their number on, are the masses who airlines see as having no loyalty. Some airlines like Southwest and Jetblue do offer an ok experience for just Joe Average, but legacy airlines don’t operate this way. And if you fly overseas, you need to take a legacy airline.

    The reason being elite will improve your flying experience is that once you reach the 25,000 mile barrier, airlines will make exceptions for you, help you out first when the weather turns bad and your flight’s been canceled, and give you more ways to fix problems. You will get bonus miles for each mile you fly. In other words, you become their favorite customers. And ask any elite member, once you become part of that group, your dissatisfaction with your particular airline decreases dramatically, because you begin to know the rules and how to get things done without stressing yourself out. All the airlines you hate — American, United, Northwest, etc — all these airlines treat their elite members well.

    So just take my suggestion, and if you fly even a small amount per year, at least put your FF number on your boarding pass, and start thinking about accumulating miles to reach elite status. You will be much better served when you get there. Unfortunately, this is one of the new realities of air travel, but our job is to understand the rules, and succeed within them.

  62. kepler11 says:

    oh, and elite members don’t pay extra bag fees.

  63. littlemoose says:

    Keep in mind also that many passengers have very little choice as to what airline they will take — many of the more popular airlines (like JetBlue) have limited routes, if any, in and out of smaller cities. I only fly about twice a year, but it’s always American, because they’re usually the only carrier with a flight to where I’m going. So that is another non-price factor — availability — that may be affecting consumer choice.

  64. jamesdenver says:


    quote: And if you fly overseas, you need to take a legacy airline. / qte

    I certainly hope you mean a non-U.S. legacy carrier. (or at least one that code shares with your FF account.)

    To choose a U.S. carrier to fly you to Europe or Asia would be simply asinine.

  65. I wonder if there is correlation between the choice of airline and the choice of connecting airport. I fly extensively for my job (though more recently we’ve done as much via webinar as possible because airline travel is so onerous), and always try to choose a flight which does not connect through a problematic airport (e.g. O’Hare, anything in NYC area), even if there is a relatively small delta in price. Ditto for my personal travel. This means that I end up more likely to choose Delta (decent experiences with Hartsfield) or Southwest (decent experiences with Oakland, Midway), but I’m not making my decision based upon their relative service.

  66. herky says:

    As an airline pilot I need to defend the industry for a minute. First of all airlines are losing billions of dollars, thats billions with a B and people expect great service, meals, blah blah blah. If we raise fares even a little bit we will still lose money and that is with flights being at max capacity. Like any product most Americans will buy a ticket based on cost and cost alone. I dont care how lousy the service is, if the most hated airline had the cheapest seats they would sell them first because Americans usually buy on price first. Also, I see alot of comments about how lousy the service is. That may be true but you must know how lousy flight attendants are treated by customers. Passengers dont have the right to be verbally abusive to flight crews. I have never seen so many nasty people on airplanes in recent years. How about not trashing our airplanes? Many passengers dress like slobs, people use to dress up. How hard is it to not stuff a dirty diaper in a seat back pocket? Yes it happens. How about acting like civilized people when you travel? Its easy to criticize the airlines but passengers deserve some blame for their behavior. No matter how many tips we give customers they dont listen – dont overpack (they still do), stay seated while the seatbelt sign is on (they dont pay attention), hand your trash to the flight attendants before landing so the next passengers dont have to live in your filth (yeah right, our planes look like a pigpen at the end of flights). It’s not just airlines people, many of you make it worse for your fellow passengers.

  67. kepler11 says:

    thanks. I just mean that if you fly overseas, loyalty to Jetblue or Southwest will not be of any help. Most likely one of the large legacies will be flying you internationally. Yes, you can choose one of the nice airlines to Asia for example. But mostly, you will want to accumulate status on a US airline. How long they’ll continue to be around is up for debate. But for the present, that’s my advice.

  68. AMetamorphosis says:

    We don’t fly anymore ( business ) than we have to.
    We are staying closer to home this year & investing our disposable dollars within our own state & communities.

    Sure, in the past we flew all over the country … Disney World & Key West were fun the past few years … but as fuel prices rise and air transportation becomes unbearable, it makes sense to invest your ” travel ” dollars locally.

    We have found that within a hundred mile radius we have some of the best things to offer … a state capitol, museums, campgrounds, shopping, amusement parks & the list goes on & on.

    When airlines become a hospitable way to travel & my vacation once again begins with a little cocktail & a bag of peanuts … I’ll Fly :-)

  69. jamesdenver says:


    quote: Yes, you can choose one of the nice airlines to Asia for example. But mostly, you will want to accumulate status on a US airline. /quote

    I disagree. You can fly Lufthansa and accumulate on UAL. Or Air New Zealand and get miles on UAL too. And plenty others.

    For a 10-15-18 hour flight the LAST place you want to be is on a U.S. carrier. You can fly much better airlines and still collect miles on your domestic carrier.

  70. veronykah says:

    I will always pick the airline with tvs in the back of each seat. Most of my flying is of the NYC->LAX variety and I don’t sleep on planes. I ‘ve had enough of crappy re-runs of Everybody Loves Raymond and cheesy A-OK for everyone movies on other airlines. I find JetBlue and Virgin to have a bit more legroom and much more comfy seats that other airlines as well.
    As for overseas, I’m planning a Thailand trip next fall and after hearing nothing but good things from a pilot about Cathay Pacific, I think I would fly with them even if they are a bit more expensive…
    So I guess the answer to your question is YES!

  71. Wormfather says:

    You know what sucks. I’ve just gotten tot he point in my carreer/life where I can afford to fly 800 miles instead of driving, but guess what, the airlines have made me consider walking.

  72. @blong81: Because the government got involved.

    Sooo, that’d mean that flying before deregulation began in 1978 was even worse, because the government had more oversight back then?

    Sorry, pal. Flying back then was, to put it simply, awesome. Great service, 40-inch seat pitches on domestic flights, drinks before takeoff, and the only negatives I can think of have to do with the fact that the airlines complained that they weren’t able to make enough money with government oversight of city-pairs.

    So we had deregulation. Unfettered capitolism. Now what do we have?

    *sigh* Neo-libertarians. Can’t figure out what’s worse – their perverse logic or their tenuous grasp of history.

  73. Kitteridge says:

    To some extent this isn’t really new: I’ve long been willing to pay more (within reason) for an airline I’ve had good experiences with than one I either know personally is bad, or have been told is bad. For example, Air India flies quite cheaply to England. I don’t care — for $50 I wouldn’t take Air India to England.

    Domestically the hair splits more fine, but I’ve had excellent experiences with certain airlines, and choose them from the list of options I get over ones I’m less familiar with or have had bad experiences with, regardless of price.

  74. mathew says:

    “Can an airline’s service get bad enough to make you pay more to avoid a certain airline?”

    Yes. I’ve paid $200 extra to avoid flying on American Airlines.

    We’re thinking of using Amtrak for our vacation this year, to avoid having to deal with the airlines. Yes, it means losing a day of vacation, but…

  75. TechnoDestructo says:


    Continental is the only US airline I’ve flown that even comes close to comparing to Asian ones.

  76. RStewie says:

    Best Airlines:
    Emirates Air


    Anyone else see a trend? I say let them into the US, so we can finally get some good service!!

  77. kepler11 says:

    yes, you’re correct about flying alliance carriers and accruing miles on your US home preferred airline. That is a good idea, but probably even beyond people’s comprehension here.

    I guess I’m just trying to get a most basic message across to people who are clearly amateurs. The thing is, when they eventually want to receive good service, they will learn about it and receive it. It’s all about education.

    But for now, like above, they cannot even tell the difference in service between, say, Continental and USAir, because they’ve flown each about, well, zero times, and vote them to be in the same category based on one flight.

  78. Crazytree says:

    I asked for a roll on a AA flight a couple of years ago because I was starving… and the lispy flight attendant went berserk and started blaming me PERSONALLY for wanting low fares and then wanting a FUCKING BREAD ROLL. HOW DARE YOU!?!?!

  79. ltlbbynthn says:

    @silencedotcom: I USED to love Northwest because they were always on time. Until one of their employees stole from my bag. Fuck NWA.

  80. snoop-blog says:

    …So I guess we were “unofficially” fed up with it until today.

    This just in: much like the rising prices of gas, we do nothing about it but continue to buy the shit and bitch. Somehow, I feel like companies are more than willing to listen to us bitch, so long as we still cough up the dough in the end.

    You can get online and cuss me up one way and down another, so long as you still pay me…

  81. snoop-blog says:

    @ltlbbynthn: and NWA would say “fuck da police!”

  82. @kepler11: “few if any people posting messages on stories like this give any useful information that you can actually use. And most people reading stories here seem to be infrequent fliers … The bottom line is this: if you want to be treated well by an airline, become one of their elite members, which is generally someone who accumulates 25,000 miles or more per year with a single airline’s frequent flier program.”

    How is that USEFUL information for the infrequent fliers?

  83. krom says:

    Yeah, well, big fucking deal, people are still flying the unfriendly skies.

    Probably because there’s no alternative.

    When the industry as a whole decides to fuck its customers, … well, the customers are fucked, plain and simple.

    Once upon a time we had this thing called a government that would prevent this sort of collusion, but we got rid of that when we decided that business knows what’s best for us.

  84. Landru says:

    I don’t fly unless I absolutely have to. That means no Hawaii or anywhere very far east of the West Coast.

  85. D3R3K says:

    It’s very simple, just open up the domestic market to overseas airlines. Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Lufthansa and other great airlines will set the bar for US based airlines. Once that’s done you won’t have to worry about your luggage getting lost, overweight and old attendants, and mediocre service.

    I’ve heard people argue that older attendants are “more experienced” than younger ones… that’s just bs. The US airlines industry really needs an overhaul…

  86. jamesdenver says:


    Hey Landru – that’s profound. As I addressed earlier – How is the fact you don’t go anywhere related to those of us who actually do travel and enjoy seeing the world?

    Like the above comment said “I don’t fly” is the obligatory “You should make your own pizza” asinine useless comment of air travel stories.

  87. D3R3K says:

    There’s nothing wrong with old and overweight people as that’s what many of us will become some day. But having younger attendants that are more robust and able to help passengers put their carry-on in the overhead compartment seem much better… at least to me.

  88. smarty says:

    Had to fly US Airways (second time ever) a month ago, and because of weather delays at one of my connections, I was stranded in Phoenix overnight. 3 lines formed with US Air reps answering questions and booking new flights the next day for everyone. A lady next to me was yelling at the rep demanding a free hotel room and free tix. The rep took it calmly, kept apologizing, and said that because it was weather related, she could not offer any compensation or hotel room.

    At my turn in my line, I saw a haggard looking rep and gave her my now useless ticket with a smile, and asked how she was. She replied that she was there over 12 hours already, so I said I was ‘sorry, it’s just one of those days, and no one controls the weather’. She got me a seat on the first flight out in the morning and gave me a coupon for a free hotel room. I never asked because I already knew my work would pay for my hotel so I handed it back and asked her to give it to someone else who deserves it.

    @herky: Too bad the Consumerist doesn’t advocate trying to be nice to workers, and the comments here show that most commentators are like that yelling lady.

  89. Meathamper says:

    In domestic, I tend to fly JstBlue or Virgin America. Getting around is OK with their hubs, and I almost never use Amtrak (shudder) anymore.

  90. herky says:


    You my freind are one of the few that sounds like you understand the business. Weather, atc, ground delays are all out of the airlines control. As we lose millions and wonder if we will be employed tommorrow people are more worried about getting a meal, which by the way they complained about when we had them. There is no pleasing the American consumer in the skies these days. I’ve seen it all. Hey I read someone say they want an attendant help put your bag in the overhead bin. Guess what? Its not the flight attendants job to lift “your” bag. If you can’t lift it yourself then you’ve put too much in the bag to begin with. Take some things out so it’s not so heavy so YOU can put it in the overhead. When you get to the security line act somewhat prepared and be ready to go through the metal detector so your not holding up the 300 people behind you. Sounds harsh, but people traveling need to get a clue. We dont serve meals so if you cant go two hours without stuffing your face with some type of comfort food grab something from Burger King in the concourse. Alot of this is common sense but it never ceases to amaze us how little common sense there is among many of our passengers.

  91. cloud-on-a-bike says:

    I guess I’ve gotten pretty lucky with my airline choices. Ever since I started traveling on my own a few years ago, I’ve only flown NWA just because they have been the cheapest for where I go and that is all that matters to a college student. The only problem I’ve ever had with them was that I had a flight canceled because of a snow storm. Because it was a multi-stop trip for me I just didn’t go and they refunded me some for the trouble and I still made it to my other location ok by flying out of Ohio and not New Jersey, which is where I would have been had there not been a storm.

    My mom only flies Continental to New Jersey and her trips home are always delayed because of the plane not showing up or some other nonsense. When we went there for a funeral I had to go back earlier because of school, and my trip home was delayed by a few hours as well.

    So yeah, I pretty much am satisfied with NWA both price-wise and service-wise. I highly recommend them. But only if you’re going to Seattle or Madison. Otherwise I can’t tell you what might happen, lol.

  92. Rusted says:

    @herky: I’m old enough to remember those days, suit and ties and all. It was before airports started turning into versions of Chicago stockyard chutes.


    Can just see the day when we get to hang from straps just like a crowded subway car.

  93. AgentTuttle says:

    People are also fed up with the TSA. Flying is truly a bad experience from beginning to end.

    Just a note: A person who flies is a FLYER, and when some a-hole puts a menu on your door knob, it’s a FLIER.

  94. bigmac12 says:

    Went to France last year on Air Tahiti(LA to Paris)…..it was a last minute “el Cheapo” package deal picked off the Internet. It was without a doubt the finast flying experience I have had in many years, other than 1st class. A squeaky clean plane with plenty of help on board serving lots of food, snacks and booze by excellent employees.
    Air Tahiti is a partner with Air France.
    Check it out if your heading that way!
    Domestic, it’s SW, Alaska or Jet blue


  95. the lesser of two weevils says:

    In the past 20 yearsd I have flown United, American, Delta, Alaska, America West, US Airways and most recently Southwest. I have NEVER had a bad experience flying Southwest, in the dozens of times Ive flown with them. Their employees (all of them) act like they’ve been given valium with a morphine chaser and are easily the most helpful attentive people Ive dealt with in business. Southwest is almost always cheaper than the competition but even if they werent Id pay a premium to fly them.

    Second place would be Alaska, third United. Id include America West in this but as soon as they got eaten up by USAir they went to crap.

  96. BerthaMarky says:

    So, Apparently it does no good to complain directly to United Airlines. I certainly would like to give them a piece of my mind.
    I will no longer book with United. In fact, we may just start driving to our destinations, as much as we can.
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