Hate the airlines? Why?

Air travel may be irritating, but given the alternatives, it isn't all that bad.

By doubleace Jun 10, 2011 12:58PM

This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.


It's been a tough couple of weeks for the airline industry.

  • A passenger on a United overnighter from D.C. to Ghana slapped the head of the man in front of him for reclining his seat. This, in turn, led to some unpleasant words, intervention by another passenger and a cabin crew member, a decision by the pilot to turn the plane around, the scrambling of two Air Force jets in case this was a terrorist incident, no arrests, and tons of comments on websites over what is proper etiquette among the common folk in economy.
  • Delta check-in personnel, following the rules straight down a path to an extraordinary public-relations disaster, charged 14 Army reservists returning from deployment in Afghanistan $200 each for having excess baggage. Once the media got ahold of the story, Delta backed up quicker than a United seat, and relaxed its rules for the military. Other airlines followed suit.  Post continues after video. 
  • The Transportation Department reported that nearly 25% of domestic flights were late arriving at their destinations in April. Horrendous storms throughout the Midwest and South were blamed. However, 21% of flights were late in March, when the weather was less offensive.

That pretty well sums up U.S. air travel these days: cramped seating, onerous and often unexpected fees, shoddy service.


The passengers must be in open rebellion, right? Not quite. Customer satisfaction is actually on the rise, up 1 percentage point, to 68.3%, in the past year, according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates.


Satisfaction levels for the top "low-cost" airlines -- JetBlue and Southwest -- were well above that, at 77.3% and 76.9%, respectively. Alaska, at 68%, led what J.P. Power called the "traditional network" airlines.


How can that be? Just the fact that there has been no confirmed sighting of an airline attendant smiling since 2009 should drop the rating below 50%.


Sarcasm aside, air travel remains a pretty good product that is doing just as well as most industries in these troubled times (you must have noticed downsized packaging and cheaper ingredients in your grocery products).


Let's stick with the basics. Airlines get you to your destination safely, quickly and cheaply. 

  • It has been nearly 10 years since a large U.S. carrier crashed with loss of life; an American Airlines flight bound for the Dominican Republic crashed shortly after takeoff from New York's JFK Airport on Nov. 12, 2001, with all 260 aboard killed. Since then, commuter jets have crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., and Lexington, Ky., with 49 dying in each incident. Your odds of landing without dying: 9.2 million to 1. Your odds against dying in an auto accident in any year: 9,000 to 1.
  • Flying not only is safe, it is fast. Let's say you travel a lot between San Diego and Seattle (where, coincidentally, my grandchildren live). The flight takes two hours and 18 minutes. Driving the 1,250 miles takes 21 hours.
  • And the financial numbers work out, too. You can book a one-way flight nonstop for two from San Diego to Seattle on Saturday, Aug. 20, for $300 on Alaska. Here's what driving costs: 43 gallons of gas driving a Mazda 5 at 65 mph -- $167. Motel for one night -- $98. Two meals for two each day (one breakfast, two lunches and one dinner) -- $119. Total -- $384.

Even if you add in renting a car, the time spent in airports, putting up with uncomfortable seats, and the ever growing nickel-and-diming, air travel is a deal.


More on MSN Money:


Jun 10, 2011 7:17PM
I think  it's possible that the older you are the more disappointed you are with the airlines because of the comparison to the golden days. When you spent just a few minutes in the terminals and the customer was actually treated as a customer.  Also, the average attendant these days would have been fired for their attitudes if they worked onboard 30 years ago
Jun 11, 2011 2:06PM
We quit flying completely when the TSA took over the airport. It is not worth the hassle and dealing with TSA is more of a headache then we can cope with. I remember when flying was a great experience and you were treated by everyone with manners and a warm welcome. Now it's just one thing after another. For us to drive from Florida to San Diego is cheaper than flying. We can take ourselves and my daughters family and drive straight through. Not to mention we can stop and see any of the sights along the way. I would only fly for an absolute emergency. Otherwise, we are quite happy boycotting the airlines.
Jun 10, 2011 3:21PM
i wont fly, unless necessary. I'm 6'4" and i cant sit in those cramped seats. then they have the  gall to charge more for the emergency exit seats.
Jun 13, 2011 3:07PM
I'm sure that overall customer satisfaction rises when the dissatisfied ones leave and don't come back.
Sep 21, 2011 10:33PM
I quit flying because of all the hassles.  Arrive 2 hours early.  Pay for having more than 1 bag.  Groped by TSA.  Very rarely arrive on time at your destination.  High cost of any food bought at the airport.  Occasionally getting bumped from a flight.  I find it more comfortable and sometimes faster to drive my own private vehicle.  I will never fly again unless its an absolute emergency and neither will my family.
Jun 13, 2011 11:22AM

I don't hate the airlines.


What I hate is what the federal government has turned them into.  Security screening is a joke and all the federal regulations that have done absolutely nothing to help out with safety (trust me the airlines don't want their planes crashing even more than the feds don't because it is bad business) it has just driven up costs.

Jul 6, 2011 12:24PM
yeah, what about the pre flight molestation?  I seem to remember that doesn't happen driving
Sep 22, 2011 10:16AM

Lynn Mucken, who wrote this article, must be a shill for the airlines. What happens to your happy numbers when three people travel to Seattle Ms. Mucken? When you arrive will you be picked up at the airport or will you rent a car? How much will you annoy your hosts by requiring rides while you entertain your grandchildern? How much will a rental car ad to the cost of your trip? Air travel is expensive! The lie of low cost is being exposed every day. If we reverse your travel for a family of four we get the truth about air travel cost. If a one way ticket is $300 we'll say a round trip is $600. For our family to visit San Diego from Seattle we find the trip to cost $2,400!! Plus all the annoying add-ons the airlines insert and the cost of a rental car and the cost of a hotel. So an intelligent family of four is going to realize the cost is $3,500 simply for being in the San Diego Zoo. A smart Mom and Dad are going to offer the kids $3,500 worth of  additional vacation right around home.

  Business travelers are stuck with the crummy treatment. The airlines say business travelers are the favorites but do not act in that manner. Families, on the other hand, can talk about the schedule and timing and budget. The smart ones are getting much more for their travel dollar and seeing sights along the way.

   The airlines policy of 'We will give our customers less and less until they return to us' is not working well.

Dec 2, 2011 5:31PM
I hate when passengers going to the rear of the plane leave their carry ons in the front of the plane, while the flight attendants are either busy gabbing or tackling other mundane tasks.  When the people who are ticketed to sit in the front of the plane get there,  all the overhead bins are taken, jammed or stuffed.  Real simple.  Make sure passengers take their carry ons to the section their sitting in.
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