Service? What is That?

Like most Americans I have been appalled and mystified by the recent treatment of passengers by U.S.-based airlines. A doctor was dragged off one aircraft even though he had a paid and ticketed seat because the airline over booked and wanted his seat to transport a crew member to meet a flight. Another airline kicked a family off a flight because the airline wanted a seat, (appropriately paid for), that was occupied by a child. Another airline totally mishandled a situation in which a passenger put a baby stroller in the overhead compartment. There have been other incidences just as horrific as these, but time and space does not permit me to cite them all.

In my opinion as a long-time and experienced air traveler there is one common thread that connects all the stories we have seen in the news regarding the mistreatment of passengers by airlines based in this country. What I have seen over the past two decades is a constant decline in service and lack of concern about passengers’ comfort and, yes, safety. Airlines here in America have demonstrated a flagrant disregard toward the feelings of passengers.

Let’s take the issue of the doctor who was dragged off an aircraft. Why did that even need to occur? No matter what the airline regulation common sense would dictate that if it was imperative to transport, or deadhead, a crew member the wise flight crew would have either individually and peacefully located an individual who could have been rewarded for giving up their seat since, as the doctor stated, he had patients who needed his surgical skills the next day. “What”, you say, “the airlines did offer incentives for giving up a seat”? Yes, but obviously not enough. The airline was dealing with revenue producing passengers, but clearly did not care or they had not taken the time to teach their flight crew to value their paying passengers needs.

Every disgusting airline story comes down to the same issue: a disregard for paying passengers. Flight crews are not proving that, in general, they know how to create a welcoming and supportive environment on their aircrafts. In my experience, when I ask other passengers about which U.S. airline best handles passengers I almost unanimously am told that Southwest does the best job. While Southwest is by no means perfect, passengers like the crew attitudes and performances over other airlines.

Here is a telling fact about American-based airlines. Every year an independent study is conducted about passengers’ views of airlines throughout the world. No airline financially contributes to the process nor has influence over the awards in any way. In the 2016 awards no U.S. airline ranks above #25. The 25th highest ranking in 2016 goes to Virgin America. This is amazing and quite shocking. You can read about the awards at http://www.worldairlineawards.com/awards/world_airline_rating.html. You will see that Delta Airlines ranks 35th, JetBlue is #53, Alaska Airlines ranks #60, Southwest is rated by passengers as #66 and the largest United States airline, American, is listed as 77th in the top 100 airlines.

Our airlines have put customer support and service second to profits and loyalty. Our airline companies can, and probably will, continue to have issues like those we have seen on the news and they will continue to settle them, but their financial resources won’t last forever.

I have my own recent story about a flight I took last month. I will write a separate article about that. Wait until you read about my experience. You won’t believe it!

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