Government To Airlines: Improve Customer Service Or Else

The government is fed up with airlines whose crappy service and delayed flights incite passenger revolts. According to officials, “we will severely punish airlines which experience aircraft occupations and other incidents as a result of service reasons which originate with the airline.” Sounds great, right?

Shame the cry for good service came from the Chinese government, not the FAA.

Chinese officials aren’t the only ones playing hardball. Americans and our Executive Email Carpet Bombs look like pushovers compared to our Chinese counterparts:

State media reported this week that scores of Chinese passengers smashed computers and desks and clashed with police after a night stranded at an airport without accommodation.

More than 170 passengers were due to leave Kunming, capital of southwestern Yunnan province, on three flights operated by China Southern Airlines late Monday, but the flights were cancelled due to bad weather, Xinhua news agency said.

The report blamed the melee on China Southern staff’s “inappropriate working attitude.”

Yang said customers must also be kept better informed about delays, especially those caused by bad weather, a big issue in China.

“If there is bad weather, for example, we will tell the media to publicize it so that passengers can be informed ahead of time and avoid long waits at airports due to the weather,” he added.

Another worry, with the Games a week away, has been ensuring Beijing’s main airport does not suffer delays from thunderstorms, which often strike the capital over the summer, just as athletes and other visitors arrive.

During last year’s Spring Festival, riot police had to be called to Beijing airport after passengers angry at fog-related delays roughed up airline staff, attacked service counters and tried to storm grounded aircraft.

Airlines that fail to improve their service will lose runway slots at popular airports. China’s centralized government may not be able to secure their food supply, but we sure do love their can-do attitude towards the airlines!

Punishing airlines whose passengers misbehave [Reuters]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. tedyc03 says:

    See and the headline made me think that the U.S. government was doing it’s fucking job and getting tough on the airlines…

    Deceived by Consumerist… *sigh*

  2. howie_in_az says:

    Our government is too busy bailing the airlines out to worry about their customer service.

  3. satoru says:

    This is only because of the run up to the Olympics. They don’t want any airline delays to taint how people view the Olympics. Once the Olympics are over, the Chinese government won’t give a crap about ‘bad service’, but instead go back to their happy ‘bribery’ based SLA’s.

    To be honest the main Chinese airports generally run decently. I mean they do have delays and such, but not really much more than say Chicago or LAX for that matter. To my mind it’s the PASSENGERS that are the problem, not the airline employees. There’s a reason the Chinese government instituted behavioral indoctrination in Beijing for the past 2-3 years. Hong Kong is much better in this respect.

  4. citabria says:

    This coming from the government that makes their airline pilots sign a “lifetime contract” with their carrier. It is no better than being an indentured servant… hypocrisy

  5. timmus says:

    Also the United States has the “revolving door” system where government officials can go on to serve on airline executive boards, or vice versa. It’s not a good system for regulatory oversight.

  6. Skipweasel says:

    Perhaps we could take Heathrow off the Spaniards and give it to the Chinese. Executions for lost baggage might concentrate the mind wonderfully.

  7. TechnoDestructo says:

    So who gets to tell the TSA to improve or else?


    It’s also not good for fairness and honesty in contracting, or for balancing the budget. It’s really not good for anything except the companies and individuals involved.

  8. says:

    With U.S. airlines facing the real prospect of either
    merger or liquidation, I don’t think we’ll likely see anything of substance happen vis-a-vis performance oversight nor will there be service improvements. And there is little incentive therefor.

    Aloha, []

  9. B says:

    Man, when the Chinese government says your customer service is bad, it must be really bad.

  10. Ooo… that was a mean trick to play, Consumerist.

    I was expecting to read about the government bailing out one of these crap companies and here I was looking forward to seeing the government do something nice about their abysmal practices. This would come from China…

  11. Darren W. says:

    @tedyc03: Since when is it the government’s job to regulate businesses? We’re capitalists here. If one airline doesn’t provide the service you want, take your money elsewhere. If you don’t like that, maybe you’ll feel more at home in communist China.

  12. ThyGuy says:

    Because at the moment, communist China is doing making us look pathetic, but that isn’t hard to do anymore.

  13. AgentTuttle says:

    Fixing the TSA would be a great first step to an improved flying experience.

  14. Will_ND says:

    Our govt. telling someone to do something the right way. Ha ha funny.

  15. RabbitDinner says:

    State media reported this week that scores of Chinese passengers smashed computers and desks and clashed with police …and were promptly executed.

  16. 3drage says:

    Since America is now a service industry, you’d think we would pay closer attention to how customers are treated. It’s bad when China takes better care of its people than the US.

  17. Hawk07 says:


    Props to you for getting the reason behind China’s actions.

  18. Amy Alkon000 says:

    Since America is now a service industry,

    A few smart companies are in the service industry model, meaning customer service. More and more companies serve themselves and think we won’t notice, a la “Press one to stay on hold for the rest of your life, press two to sign over your life savings to us and then kill yourself,”…etc.

  19. Sian says:

    of course considering this is China, ‘severely punished’ will mean ‘executed via firing squad’.

  20. golfinggiraffe says:

    @Darren W.: So… what if *all* the airlines (or businesses in some other industry) treat you the same way? What if they’re the *only* company? Yep, no need for anti-trust laws…

  21. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Even if this had been the US Government…
    “Improve customer service or else…we’ll tell you again.”

  22. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    And when the Chinese execute someone, they send the family a bill for the bullet!

  23. usa_gatekeeper says:

    I understand many of the passengers trying to depart from Kunming used their cell phones in an attempt to reach a China Southern CSR, only to become angrier when it turned out the CSRs were American based and their command of the Chinese language(s) was absolutely terrible.


  24. SloppyChris says:

    The admission finally comes: The Consumerist wants communism.

  25. Snaptastic says:

    Too bad the Passengers Bill of Rights (along with some items intended to fix the FAA and how they treat their air traffic controllers) is sitting there waiting for our government to approve it…where it has been sitting for at least the past month, and where it will continue to sit while our elected officials are off on their 5 week vacation.

  26. ThinkerTDM says:

    Capitalism does not equal democracy.
    It is up to the government to protect the people it claims to represent, and since most corporations see profits over stealing people’s money, then that is where the government needs to be.
    In the old America, people voted for the government. In the new America, corporations do. That’s why choosing capitalism over other governments is a bad idea.

  27. Japheaux says:

    Or else? Or else? Or else what? Us congress-people of these United States are going to put on our big-girl panties and write you airlines a letter telling you how mad we are with you. And if you don’t comply, we are going to write another letter telling you how seriously we take this issue.

    Are you kidding me? They will never get together and get anything accomplished that benefits their constituents.

  28. SuffolkHouse says:

    The Bush government is not fed up with anything except for having to pretend to care around election time every four years.

    Their M.O. is to deconstruct government, not to perform and garner good will. This is bull shit.

  29. SuffolkHouse says:


    That doesn’t make sense. Either you love American democracy or you don’t. Evidently, you don’t love American democracy, because your democratically elected officials are willing this to happen.

    Seriously, dude. Read books. Turn off Hannity.

  30. andyfvp says:

    Yep, the airlines are getting worse. I don’t the fines on bad service will help though. I just flew united recently and here were my top complaints:

    1. The staff, both before you board and on the plane, seem disinterested when it comes to customer service. I know the last few years have seen a lot of layoffs and even wage cuts, but it clearly looks like the staff are unhappy in their jobs and this was clearly reflected in their service and attitude. I even heard this first hand from some crew members who openly discussed the poor work conditions they have.

    2. On board their audio-visual equipment is terrible and far behind their competitors. They have small TV screens and provide headphones used in the 80’s. In fact I had to use my iPod headphone to get decent sound quality. I recommend you bring your own entertainment if you fly the friendly skies with them.

    3. Food is mediocre and in both flights they ran out of food options, so if you were at the back of the plane you had no food choices. On my return sector, they even ran out of plastic cups, so everyone had to reuse theirs. Great for the environment but it is annoying to have coke, orange juice and water in the same glass over a 9 hour flight.

    4. The bathrooms were in terrible condition and even though passengers complained, nothing was done.

    5. The seats are tiny and legroom is designed for a person around five and a half feet tall. I know they have old planes, but they pack ’em in like sardines in a can.

  31. I think we can learn a lot from this!

    Namely, smashing things and getting so loud the police need to be called are BAD — if you’re just one guy. But if EVERYBODY does it, the big boys will step up to avoid an all-out catastrophe.

    And come on, this is America — we didn’t invent pitchfork-waving and screaming in the streets, but for a while there we were the mack daddies of it.

    I’m all in favor of being civilized generally…but if they’re just going to use it as an excuse to ignore you (like American airline companies obviously are), then, well…

    Civilized customers: A privilege, not a right!!

  32. JiminyChristmas says:

    @Darren W.: Since when is it the government’s job to regulate businesses?

    Well, if you ask me, I would say since about 1789. Maybe you could familiarize yourself with Article 1, Section 3, clause 3, of the US Constitution, aka the Commerce Clause, which gives the federal government the right to regulate interstate commerce.

    If you don’t like it, maybe you should find yourself some nice libertarian utopia to live in instead of the United States. Good luck with that.

  33. @doctor_cos: American gov’t: Improve your customer service, or we’ll give you $100 million of taxpayer money to do so.

  34. jamar0303 says:

    Hopefully they regulate all airlines that fly into China, not just local airlines. I want to see United punished for the crap they gave on the last Shanghai-Chicago flight I took.

  35. RogerDucky says:

    Cultural note: In China, in the bigger cities, customer service reps are usually friendly, efficient, and helpful. Why? Because those that aren’t are usually faced with an angry mob in very short order due to the large concentration of frustrated customers. The mob usually doesn’t turn violent if placated immediately by a supervisor and the service rep is fired on the spot. The alternative is to have your business smashed and possibly your employees beaten. Even if the police arrived and kept order for you, you’d probably still be frowned upon for inciting a riot…

    So, given the situation, service reps HAS to be good due to business realities. In this case, the main problem is that some airlines have lowered their level of service without doing the proper customer-placating, causing riots to happen at airports that might haven foreign reporters in it. Which would give a bad reputation to China. Hence, the warning.

  36. SloppyChris says:

    This is super late, but I just want to let anyone reading this know that I believe in capitalism and hate Hannity.