Surprised to Hear Airlines Are Doing a Better Job?

If you fly a lot, as I do, the latest Airline Quality Ratings may have you scratching your head. How is it the airlines are doing better when it feels like we're traveling on a system that is stretched to the limits?

Well, it's because the airlines have pulled back in some areas that the data shows they're doing a better job, even though customer complaints have skyrocketed. So what gives? Blame it on airlines running their operations more efficiently, and with a greater focus on the bottom line.

Look at the three areas where the airlines improved:

  • Fewer lost/delayed bags: This is because baggage fees have lead to more people flying with little or no luggage. So with fewer bags to handle, there are fewer chances for the airlines to mess up.
  • More on time flights: This is because the airlines have cut capacity and thinned out their schedules. So if you have fewer flights every 24 hours, you should do a better job taking off and landing on time.
  • Denied Boardings: Ahh the dreaded bumping. Why are fewer people getting bumped from flights? This is a case of the airlines overselling fewer flights, in part because there's so little slack in the system that they have fewer spots to place bumped passengers.

As for the one area where the airlines did poorly, it's easy to see why:

  • Customer Complaints: They spiked mainly because of a surge in the number of people ticked off to see their flight cancelled. It's happened to me more than a few times in the last year, and like you, it has infuriated me. The fact is, we're seeing airlines cancel flights because of new federal laws that fine them for parking us on a tarmac for hours on end.
  • Bottom line: All of us who fly need to bring down our expectations. We should have known that we'd see more cancelled flights. Heck, we were warned this would happen when the tarmac fines were put in place. I know, you are fed up booking a flight that is later cancelled. I've been in your shoes, or in this case your seat. Hey, look at it this way: at least now when you take off, you should get to your destination on time.