Airline Travel Worse than Ever
Americans are increasingly frustrated with airline travel.
Low-cost carriers — AirTran, Jet Blue and Southwest — took the top three spots in a national survey of airline quality, while the industry overall fared poorly amid rising fuel prices and increasingly fed-up consumers. At the bottom of the list released Monday were Comair, American Eagle and in last place: Atlantic Southeast Airlines.
The past year “was the worst year ever for the U.S. airlines,” said Brent Bowen, a study co-author and professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Aviation Institute. “Overall operational performance and quality declined once again to the lowest level that it’s ever been.”
The annual Airline Quality Rating survey found that more bags were lost, more passengers were bumped, more consumers complained and fewer flights arrived on-time than in the previous year. The overall “quality score” the researchers gave the industry (-2.16) was the lowest in the nearly two decades they’ve been studying the airlines.
Despite these results, though, people continue to fly. Indeed, it’s rare to get on a plane these days that’s not packed to capacity.
Between the hassles of security, cramped flights, lousy service, and the incredibly high chance of lost bags and flight delays, I simply hate flying these days. This is a fairly recent development. I took my first plane trip, a transatlantic flight to Germany, as an infant and have taken probably a hundred flights since. Even a decade ago, flying was a no-brainer if the stay was short and the drive was long; now, I refuse to fly if I can drive in under eight hours.
I take enough trips overseas and cross country that I still fly several times a year, though. And, clearly, most of the big airlines have figured that they can’t compete on the basis of service and so stopped trying. Most people, myself included in all honesty, treat flying as a commodity experience and make our calculations largely on the basis of price. Given that all the big boys seem to be constantly in danger of going bankrupt, you’d think they’d try to set themselves apart with a more enjoyable flying experience.
How odd, then, that the budget carriers have nonetheless come in with slightly bigger seats and some low-cost frills that make customers happy and loyal. Would that business model work on a larger scale? Or is it only workable when cherry picking a handful of the most profitable routes?
Image source: Autopia