This week we congratulate The Washington Post for writing an airline promotional piece and masquerading it as 'news'.
Very well done, airlines. TSA also got their talking points in with no filter or checking of accuracy and facts!
The article ballyhoos that "airfares are down" and passenger satisfaction is up. Flying is perfect.
Like many of you who sent us this story, it was with awe and disbelief we read the piece. The happy-talk was so contradictory to feedback we receive on a daily basis.
Of course, air travel is prone to blunders, such as weather-delayed flights and sporadically lost bags. After all, the word "travel" comes from the Old French"travail", meaning a suffering or painful effort, an arduous journey. Both words "travail" and "travel" have their roots in the Latin Tripalium, an instrument of torture. How apropos even today!
But one big factor within an airline's control is customer service, which can make the difference between a satisfactory experience and a distressing one. It usually isn't the unappetizing inflight food, lagging WiFi or whether the in-flight headphones work that counts as much as how you are treated.
Still, almost no industry in America treats its customers as badly on a day-to-day basis as the airlines - involving delays, cancellations, no leg room, shrinking seats, crowded planes, fees for everything and insolent contract employees.
Article or Ad?
Beware of 'sponsored stories'. One tip-off that this article was likely an advertising piece or sponsored journalism was that it celebrated passengers being required to tag their own bags. Shifting more responsibilities onto the passenger with none of the benefits is hardly something to applaud.
FlyersRights did more digging and found that Airlines 4 America (A4A), the industry's lobbying group, commissioned the Ipsos survey referenced in the article.
The airlines then cherry-picked one ticket to get the 20% taxes number. Overall tax burdens are hard to calculate because some taxes are percentage based and some are flat, but the airlines used a low fare price to inflate the percentage. Business Travel Coalition says the rate should be closer to 16%. We also know the airlines charge ancillary fees to dodge federal taxes.
FlyersRights has proposed that this tax loophole be closed in regard to airline fees, as it is draining the Aviation Trust Fund. We also recommend that ancillary fees be deemed exorbitant and prohibited if they exceed a certain multiple of the reasonable cost of providing the service.
"We can expect more of these types of planted articles by A4A, which just added two new people to its PR dept, including a social media specialist," said Paul Hudson, FlyersRights' president.
No amount of travel writer happy talk can change the unhappy experience of air travel today.
Therefore, dear airline CEOs, just as the song says - every move you make, every breath you take we'll be watching you.
We are commited to solutions for promoting airline passenger policies that forward first and foremost the safety of all passengers while not imposing unrealistic economic burdens that adversely affect airline profitability or create exhorbitant ticket price increases.
All American air carriers shall abide by the following standards to ensure the safety, security and comfort of their passengers:
Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.
Notify passengers within ten minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.
Establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.
Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than 3 hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities, and access to medical attention.
Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.
Publish and update monthly on the company’s public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.
Compensate “bumped” passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price.
The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers – that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.
Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.
Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.
Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners.