Taxman Preferred Over Airlines
(December 27, 2001)
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index released by
the University of Michigan in mid-December, given a choice,
Americans would rather file taxes than fly on commercial airlines.
Ouch! From a consumer satisfaction standpoint, it doesn't get much
worse than being topped by the IRS. What's even more interesting is
that this survey was done before the September 11th attacks. To make
matters worse, airlines are cutting the very things that make
customers more satisfied.
Airlines Cut to the Bare
Buffeted by the events of September 11 and
the economic slowdown, U.S. airlines are struggling to survive. Say
"buh-bye" to flying perks that are deemed an "excess cost"—mainly
items used to make the flying experience a little more bearable.
Here's what's being taken away:
Many employees I spoke with are
downright frustrated with the cuts. Most said their jobs have become
increasingly difficult because so many basic things have been cut.
One flight attendant I spoke with stated: "The airlines are in the
fight of their lives but they seem to be shooting themselves in the
foot with senseless cuts."
- Fewer (or no) Pillows or Blankets: US Airways announced
last month that they are eliminating blankets and pillows from all
flights except transcontinental and international ones. After
outcries from flight attendants, the airlines recently changed
their minds and now allow pillows back on the airplanes.
Regardless, most airlines have cut back on the number of them
onboard each aircraft and the frequency in which they are
- No Meals: Most meals on flights under three hours have
been eliminated. In addition, many airlines have done away with
many special meals previously offered.
- Fewer Magazines: Most airlines have removed or
streamlined the selection of commercial magazines onboard.
However, there is still some decent reading to be had as airlines
are keeping their own in-flight magazines.
- Less In-flight Entertainment: Airlines have cut back
video and music offerings as these programs are expensive to
- Dingy Cabins: Aircraft cabins will not be as tidy as in
the past because airlines are cutting back on cleaning crews.
There are also more broken service items, including burned-out
reading lights, seats that don't recline, audio plugs that don't
work, broken monitors, and lavatories with broken items. Part of
this is due to airlines deferring maintenance to hub airports
where an airplane already has scheduled maintenance.
- Reduced Staffing: Airlines have reduced staffing
everywhere. Long lines at check-in counters are becoming longer
because of employee furloughs. Airline reservation agents are
swamped since cutbacks and take longer to answer calls. Even
flight crews are affected as most airlines have cut flight
attendants to the FAA minimum. Furthermore, so many pilots have
been furloughed that there may not be enough reserve pilots to
fill the gaps when operational problems occur, something that
could result in cancelled flights.
- Fewer Clubs: Most major airlines have closed some of
their lounges. Business travelers are complaining that clubs are
becoming as crowded as gate areas. Furthermore, perks such as free
drinks and snacks have disappeared.
- Reduced Schedules: Airlines have cut service and pulled
out of many small markets. Some existing flights have disappeared
with little or no notice.
Airways' seesawing-on-the-pillow issue is a good example of airline
mismanagement. The airline stated it would save two million dollars
a year by cutting them back. Nevertheless, cuts like these only add
to the growing animosity towards airlines. In the scheme of things,
two million spent on passenger comfort is money well spent.
Especially since airlines have been aided with five billion dollars
in government relief funds.
It's amazing to think that the
drudgery of filing taxes is ranked above traveling on airplanes,
something linked to leisure. For airlines to be perceived in a
better light, they must re-think the big picture and improve what's
mentioned in the above list so their employees can better serve the
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