These airlines are the poster children for bad service

Aaron Kohr/Shutterstock
Aaron Kohr/Shutterstock
When you have a customer service problem with a company, it can usually be cleared up with a quick phone call or email. Unless you’re dealing with an airline.

It seems air carriers like to shield themselves as much as possible from the traveling public, particularly when things go wrong. And I should know. I’m this site’s director of research, and it’s my job to connect people with companies.

If you’ve ever called an airline’s toll-free telephone number to resolve a problem, generally with a lower-level customer service agent, you’ll have a real understanding of what the word “exasperating” means.

Take, for example, the problems experienced by passengers Cheri Rosenthal and David Weinberg, who traveled last year with two bicycles, paying $300 to check them on American Airlines and AirBerlin.

The bicycles were packaged according to airline standards with bubble wrap and a cardboard cover, yet when they reached their destination, one of the bicycles was nowhere to be found. When it finally turned up two days later, after being lost twice by AirBerlin, it was damaged beyond repair, having a large crack in the frame.

What followed could certainly be considered an exercise in futility.

Since they’d traveled on two different airlines — American out of Minneapolis, AirBerlin out of Miami to Malaga, Spain — they contacted both airlines for assistance with their claim. They even emailed the CEO of AirBerlin, Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, and the COO, Helmut Himmelreich, and heard nothing.

(And as a side note to this, within a couple of weeks of the AirBerlin page going live in the database, both executives changed their email addresses and we still haven’t found the new ones)

After many phone calls and emails, some taking weeks to get a response, each airline blamed the other, with the result being no one is offering to replace the damaged bike. A year later, the couple is still trying to convince them both to accept responsibility for what is clearly airline negligence.

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Rosenthal is now what could be politely referred to as “miffed.”

“We learned the hard lesson that you get your boarding pass, give them your baggage, and hope you might see it again,” she says.

And the takeaway in all of this for Rosenthal and Weinberg? “Airlines today are soulless corporations that take no responsibility for their actions, whose leaders shield themselves with low-level gatekeepers and arcane procedures,” she says.

Think they’ll ever fly American or AirBerlin again? Neither do I.

Another airline that’s given the readers here a difficult time is LAN and TAM Airlines, with both falling under the umbrella of LATAM Airlines Group. Because of a merger in 2013, none of the contacts shown in the database are now working.

Not long ago, the owner of this site, Chris Elliott, was contacted by a representative from LATAM, Megan Williams, the Marketing Director in their Miami office. Responding to an article he’d recently written about a customer who’d had a poor experience on a TAM flight, Williams sent Chris an email to let him know she’d taken care of the problem.

In her message, she said:

Since you are trying to help passengers get their issues resolved with airlines, in the future, I would appreciate if you could reach out to me to assist you in getting through the right TAM and or LAN customer service channels. Please consider me as a resource for any support that you need in the future to assist with reaching the proper contacts in a timely manner.

Since that time, there have been more consumers trying to make contact with LATAM.

One such customer is Margaret Smith (not her real name). She and her husband flew on TAM Airline and it was fraught with missteps. While they reached their destination initially, even calling their first flight “comfortable,” it was when they were flying back to Miami from Curitiba that everything fell apart.

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When they got to the airport, they were offered an upgrade to their seats for an additional $85 each. However, once they paid for the upgrade, the seats were no longer available, nor were their original seats. Smith sent her husband on his way while she stayed behind, catching a later flight.

To add insult to injury, when the Smiths arrived in Brazil, their suitcases were soaked through and she had no clothes to wear until hers dried out.

The Smiths have made several attempts to contact TAM and LATAM, beginning with the customer relations email Williams gave Chris. The answer? Nothing. Following this, they sent an email to Williams. More silence.

Chris and I appealed to Williams for a better point of contact for their passengers, but she refused to give us anything more than what we already had.

Think Williams meant it when she told Chris, “I would appreciate it if you could reach out to me to assist you”?

I’d wager the Smiths would like to know the answer to that question, too.

Something companies need to realize is this: When a customer has a good experience with a company, they tell very few people.

Every year, American Express polls their customers, not just in the US but also in ten other countries. What they discovered in their 2012 survey was: when a customer has a good experience with a company, they’ll tell an average of 15 people, at least in the US.

But when a consumer has a bad experience? The average US customer is likely to tell 24 people, up from their 2011 survey. And in India, which is at the top end of the “I’m telling” scale, it’s an average of 44 people.

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Using the two examples given here, between the Rosenthal/Weinbergs and the Smiths, if each of them is true to the results of the survey, they will tell a total of 96 people of their being treated poorly by these airlines. Since one of the people they told is Chris Elliott, that number now goes into the thousands.

And speaking of the survey, there were other items of note.

Over 50 percent of the consumers polled expressed they’ve stopped a transaction due to poor customer service, taking their business elsewhere. In addition to that, an average of roughly 60 percent believe the companies they do business with either “don’t care about their business” or that they “take their business for granted.”

It also seems once a consumer finds a company that will give them good customer service, they tend to stay with them, even if it means spending a little more money. And these same customers actually increase their spending once they find a company they feel cares about them.

Not only are some airlines hurting their bottom line by not treating their customers better, they’re helping their competitors in an appreciable way.

What are consumers looking for in the companies they do business with? It’s simple, really.

According to the survey, all they want is “polite, timely and responsive customer service.”

So this begs the question: Is good customer service really becoming so difficult to provide?

Have you ever taken your business elsewhere because of bad customer service?

View Results

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Nancy Marine is the director of research for Travelers United.

  • polexia_rogue

    my husband is over 400 pounds. but his family lives in the midwest so travel is a must.

    we tried several airlines that flew in to Milwakee or Madison and each one sucked! I’m not going to namje names but if there was ever an issue the answer was “we can put you on the next available fight- you might be more comfortable.”

    um.. no.

    This is where Virgin America gets credit. traveling with an oxygen tank the first half of the trip was unvenetful. we upgraded to “business class” with nice big seats.

    but the return leg was where things went wrong. the only upgrade available was “exit row” it was a business class price with business class sized seats to we took it.

    This time the FA noticed the oxygen tank and the fact my husband had a throat trac (yes and the fact he was morbidly obese.) I was freaking out. I was sure they would kick us off- but no. The head FA came back with “I talked to other business class passengers and i have 2 people willing to trade seats with you, so you can remain on the flight.”

    now it has been over a year (he got weight loss surgery so hopefully next time this will be a non-issue) but i am a devoted Virgin America fan.

    I had to make one little sacrifice; VA only flies in to chicago. his family is in wisconsin. so every time we go there it’s a 2 hour commute.- well worth it for an airline with nice seats and nice people.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I have no intention of flying the “new” American. I had to many bad experiences with the “old” American. And somehow I don’t think taking two crappy airlines and combining them will suddenly yield a better company. Here’s my airline math: 1 big crappy airline + 1 big crappy airline = 1 huge crappy airline.

  • John Baker

    Here’s what a little GoogleFu shows on the first case…

    AA’s damaged baggage site actually points to BA (anti-trust anyone) which reads: The air carrier is liable for destruction, loss or damage to baggage up to 1,131 SDRs (approximately £1,000 or EUR1,230). In the case of checked baggage, it is liable even if not at fault, unless the baggage was defective. In the case of unchecked baggage, the carrier is liable only if at fault.

    And from Air Berlin…
    airberlin works with the company Dolfi1920 in cases of settling claims for damaged baggage. Dolfi1920 is the leading company in Europe in this field and works on behalf of numerous international airlines. The service provided for airberlin guests includes assessing the damaged item of baggage and deciding whether it is possible to repair the baggage item or simply replace it. In this way the claim can be settled without delay and it saves you, our customer, a great deal of time

    The AA(BA) website would suggest that AirBerlin / AA is liable regardless of fault. I’m also pretty sure that the last carrier (AirBerlin) is the one responsible for claims according to international treaty.

  • deemery

    In the mid/late ’80s, I had several bad experiences on AA, culminating when stuff was stolen out of my luggage and the airline’s attitude was ‘too bad.’ (I later found out there was a baggage handler theft ring in DFW.) More than a million miles later, I’ve been on AA flights maybe 4 times, 3 of them when diverted from another airline and once when I had no alternative. None of those experiences have changed my views of the airline. The last one was on an MD-80. I was in the very last row, and the pilot slammed the aircraft down so hard I though I hurt my back.

  • Isidora Rush

    Generic article & very one-sided as written by a low-level author. Deal in reality that most travelers feel entitled with the purchase of a ticket. Their ticket has not purchased an airline, nor their staff, only point A to B. And in addition most “adults” are extremely rude, hostile, belligerent, & naturally combative when dealing with any person who works in a service related job period. Manners are free, & people need to use them when dealing with other human beings. How you talk to someone, how you perceive them as lower than you, & how you treat them overall is exactly what is given back to you in return. Stand back & watch initial conversations. They never start with “excuse me or pardon me” but “WHAT”. And people have hard time saying please, thank you, etc. Pay it forward.

  • mbods

    The message I get is that the airline industry in general just don’t like us, their customers. We are an annoyance. Never mind if we all stopped flying they’d be out of business so we really ARE the reason they exist. But they don’t care and it seems they are allowed not to care, lose or destroy our belongings, treat us like cattle and get away with it.

  • MarkKelling

    Most airlines make more money by flying mail and other cargo than by flying people. So even if every person stopped flying, they would probably still make money since all they would have to do is load cargo and go. Cargo doesn’t complain about cramped conditions, no pillows or no meals.

  • Isidora Rush

    And to all who posted negative rants about USA based airlines….the good news is you take your complaining, whining, opinionated, 1-2 times a year if that as a traveler, or grossly overweight self and CHARTER YOUR OWN AIRCRAFT. Yes their available as well as the bus, rail, or car rental. Airlines are commercial = public transportation.

  • John Baker

    But they don’t care and it seems they are allowed not to care, lose or destroy our belongings, treat us like cattle and get away with it

    As long as the flying public buys solely on price, this will not change. There’s no reason for the airlines to take on their unions to insist on good customer service (or add people to provide it) when we’ve shown that all we care about is the bottom line ticket price not customer service, seat size, seat pitch or included items.

  • Isidora Rush

    Mark Kelling you are exactly right….the money is in cargo. People riding along are pure profit. Airlines will not go out of business. We live in a global economy.

  • John Baker

    LOL… I live near Cincinnati which has been effective “de-hubbed” by Delta (after a promise Congress they wouldn’t but that’s another story). We went from multiple international flights on a daily basis pre-merger to one post-merger. The rumor on the street is that GE Aircraft purchases 100% of the cargo space on the flight nightly to fly parts to Paris for Airbus and the contract effectively means that DL needs almost no one on the plane to turn a profit (and a chunk of the seats are purchased by GE too).

  • Isidora Rush

    John Baker the flying public needs to stop wasting time arguing & getting frustrated as the author stated “low level” employees. Don’t like an airline, go after their ceo’s. Take the time to really read the carriers stock reports & see the monetary increases at the top. The system is built that the top staff are always paid top dollar whether profits are made or not. This is done by cutting salaries of lower scale workers on one hand and on the other nickel & dime the customer for every amenity or service. There is no industry standard but to make as much profit as possible at anyone’s expense.

  • jerryatric

    I will NEVER fly United, BUT kudos to British Airways.
    Flew to India, & trip was very pleasant. On return our plane left late & we had only 1 hour to change planes in Heathrow. I figured we would never make it. Shortly before landing they advised Ground crews would aide all passengers in getting to connecting flights. On debarking, they had several people with signs for final destinations & guided us all. Made the flight back home & as a bonus received our luggage as well. That’s what I call service.

  • BMG4ME

    It’s interesting because LAN was used as an example of what an airline should be, and supposedly is/was a great airline. I also find American to be a great airline, just because things go wrong occasionally, it doesn’t make the company a bad one.

  • Isidora Rush

    Voila John Baker you got it!

  • TonyA_says

    Looks like you need waterproof luggage in Curitiba. It does not have a dry season :-)

    Rainfall/ Precipitation in Curitiba, Brazil

    Curitiba gets hold of on balance 1408 mm (55.4 in) of rainfall per year, or 117.3 mm (4.6 in) per month.The driest weather is in August when an average of 74.5 mm (2.9 in) of rainfall (precipitation) occurrs.The wettest weather is in January when an average of 165 mm (6.5 in) of rainfall (precipitation) occurrs.

  • Helio

    Despite of being Brazilian, I never consider TAM as one of the best airlines of the world.

    But… this Margareth Smith problem has a lot of flosses for me – the MIA-CWB flight was OK, they had problem with CWB-MIA flight, and in MIA-CWB flight the baggage arrived soaked. Did the have or not a good MIA-CWB flight?!? After all, the things started to “fall apart” only in the return flight, or not?

    Oh, and there are no direct flights from Curitiba to Miami. Therefore we don’t know if the problem occurred in the 1st or 2nd leg. Because the 1st flight was a domestic one (in A320 or A321 plane), I have the impression they may arrived late or not so much ahead, the flight was full, and they lost their seat. The loss of the seat was an unacceptable and unjustified TAM error, but if they had arrived earlier in the airport, they may not had problems.

  • jim6555

    There are at least three domestic airlines that show appreciation for their passengers’ business and don’t treat people like walking cargo.These three are Virgin America, Jet Blue and Southwest. I try to fly one of these airlines whenever I can.

  • Susan Collier

    Great article, thanks for sharing!

  • TonyA_says

    Excellent list! Add some Asian arlines to that and this blog will read like a Maytag repairman site.

  • omgstfualready

    their = they’re
    Your rant loses much of its force when you cannot spell or use proper grammar.

  • Trudi

    I’ve yet to travel Jet Blue or Virgin America, but Southwest has proven reliable for the last 5 years. I am concerned about Southwest’s merger with Air Tran – which boasted the most uncomfortable seats I ever put my behind. Southwest actually seems to want it’s passengers to enjoy their flight and I always feel like a real person not a numbered soul.

  • Alan Gore

    How dare passengers expect that bicycles they paid extra to ship be delivered in not-smashed-up condition, or that the premium seat they paid extra for actually be available! Please, let us know which airline you work for, so we can stay away from it.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Obviously they did a terrible job transporting them, but I was kind of amazed you could ship two bicycles for $300. You can almost rack up that kind of cost by having an extra suitcase or going over the weight limits.

  • mbods

    Well, now that you all have put it that way (truly, thank you, I didn’t realize that cargo was king and we were really less than..ha!), I see no amount of dissatisfaction will ever matter, which is very sad. So many folks must fly for business reasons, family, funerals etc. and it’s a shame not to be treated well and with respect. I keep dreaming the bad customer service tread will reverse and those airlines who go back to the old ways, when the customer was valued, will really be on to something and get all the business! I’ve always been a dreamer…..sigh

  • jim6555

    Trudi, it is my understanding that the new seats and the merger are unrelated. Southwest had made plans to install the seats before the Air Tran merger became a reality. Because the seats are thinner, Southwest has been able to add an extra row of seats to each 737-700 aircraft. The capacity has increased from 137 passengers to 143. I’ve experienced these seats and immediately noticed that they were not as comfortable as what I was expecting. However, after a few minutes the discomfort seemed to go away and I didn’t think about it for the rest of that flight or on subsequent flights.

  • John Keahey

    Did the bike folks have trip insurance after reading fine print to see if the bikes would have been covered? I would have, if I were transporting something as valuable as those bicycles and after paying such a fee. If they didn’t, they should have.

  • TonyA_says

    To add insult to injury, when the Smiths arrived in Brazil, their
    suitcases were soaked through and she had no clothes to wear until hers
    dried out.

    Arrived in Brazil could only mean the INTERNATIONAL flight from USA.
    Was it raining in Miami or GRU/GIG (possible entry into Brazil)?

    Note to readers of this blog. Buy XXL Zip Lock bags and put all your clothes inside them before you toss the whole bag into your suitcase. It might save you a few letters to Elliott.

  • TonyA_says

    To whoever wrote this article:
    There is a well known fact, doctrine or whatever you want to call it about LOST and DAMAGED luggage for International travel. It is called the Montreal Convention (and some parts of the older Warsaw Convention).
    There is no need to write the CEO of an airline.
    Just make a claim.

  • JewelEyed

    Would you like to tell us what this has to do with anything? I feel I’m missing the point you’re making, but I tend to believe that’s because you missed the point of the article.

  • JewelEyed

    I adore Jet Blue. I think you’ll enjoy them if you ever have occasion to use them.

  • JewelEyed

    What happened to no personal attacks?

  • TonyA_says

    Unless you (the OP) pack your bike inside a full enclosure, you are just asking for trouble.

    These bikes went through the sort at least 2-3 times.
    Since they are out-of-gauge, then who knows how they are handled.
    Just because you can check bikes in, does not mean that you should. I have to add this to my stupid file.

  • TonyA_says

    And whatever happened to Elliott using the real names of the people who write him?

  • TonyA_says

    I’m having trouble understanding this part of the article:

    When they got to the airport, they were offered an upgrade to their seats for an additional $85 each. However, once they paid for the upgrade, the seats were no longer available, nor were their original seats. Smith sent her husband on his way while she stayed behind, catching a later flight.

    First of all LATAM does not have premium economy on their own flights for this route.

    Enjoy Premium service when traveling in South America
    This cabin is available on our Airbus 318, Airbus 319, and Airbus 320 aircraft for the following routes:
    Santiago – Buenos Aires
    Santiago – Montevideo
    Santiago – Sao Paulo
    Santiago – Lima
    Lima – Quito – Medellin
    Lima – Bogotá
    Lima – Sao Paulo

    Seatguru seat maps also do not have some kind of premium seating for Economy on TAM.

    So what could this OP be talking about?

    Perhaps they were sold AA’s Main Cabin Extra seating since TAM (JJ) codeshares AA operated flights to GRU/GIG/MAO/BSB with connecting service to CWB.

    And how could you simply ask to be left behind and have your husband fly ahead of you?
    Where you bumped and your husband not? That is very strange.
    Perhaps you volunteered to take some cash and the later flight.
    So your luggage would be unloaded and probably be left out while it was raining in MIA?
    Care to explain what really happened?

  • emanon256

    Its cheaper to rent bikes then to check them as baggage. Many hotels even have free bike rentals.

  • Trudi

    Consumers who pay airlines to ship their baggage have a certain expectation that their baggage will arrive where they paid for it to arrive and in at least somewhat the same condition it was shipped. That’s really all most of us expect when we pay for baggage on an airline. Your posts that people seem to expect too much from an airline indicate that maybe you missed that point.

  • Trudi

    Expanding passenger space means less leg room. Drats. I hate that. I understand it, but I hate it.

  • Trudi

    They don’t go to most of my regular travel destinations. I hope to use them one day, though. My son loves Jet Blue for his New York flights.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Sadly true.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Yes, but these were likely high end bikes…though you can also rent those many places. Note how they said a frame was cracked. That’s not easy to do to anything but a high-end composite frame.

  • emanon256

    Even more reason not to bring them as baggage. Don’t get me wrong, I blame the airline, but I also would never check a good bike. I always try to bring as little as possible, since I can always get it there, and I almost never check anything that I wouldn’t want broken. When I do, I make sure to package it to the point it could get dropped 10 feet and have other items dropped on it without breaking it.

  • omgstfualready

    I like JetBlue’s boarding process. It is back to front so it moves at a pace that isn’t as glacial as the ZONE process. But it takes some planning. I know if my seat is in the front I’m screwed for overhead space and deal with it. If I’m in the back I know I’ll have overhead but need to make sure my connection time is sufficient.

  • Helio

    I believe they are talking about first rows and exit rows in Economy.
    TAM is charging extra for these seats. They call it “Assento Conforto” – Comfort Seat in English.

  • omgstfualready

    Also when traveling with another person (family/friends) trade a few outfits in each other’s bags. You’ll have something to wear if only one bag makes it. And carry on a change of clothing too (and dress in layers).

  • TonyA_says

    So bulkhead and emergency seats are offered WHEN? During Check In?
    So I’m not sure how they lost a seat in that same flight?
    It seems she accepted a bump offer.

  • TonyA_says

    Thanks Helio, I found it in the TAM blog ;-) Translated by google.

    You are those who always made sure of a place in the front row or emergency exit of the plane, which are those that have more legroom? Since February, you no longer have to depend on luck to have a seat available in those places to make your check in, because we have created for some of our flights, the Seat Comfort.

    These seats are available on aircraft doing some domestic flights in the economic class that make international flights, and are located in the first row and the next to the emergency exit seats.

    To purchase your seat comfort is easy: just request it at check-in at the airport of departure and pay a fee which varies according to your destination. You can check the exact position in the comfort seat by clicking on “look at the seat map” of the desired aircraft at our site.

    Remember that, for safety reasons and following the dictates of the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC), the seats located at emergency exits may not be used by customers who have mobility problems, the elderly, or who have visual or hearing impairment .

    And the seats are reserved in the front row, preferably, passengers with children cot, unaccompanied minors or customers with guide dog, and no fee will be charged. So if someone appears in these conditions, you may be reallocated in normal seats and have their fee refunded.

    On domestic flights, the value can vary from 10 to 30 dollars a piece (where the flights between Sao Paulo and Manaus operated with A330, 100 for real you can go on the executive). For international destinations, the value ranges from 50 to $ 70 each way on flights between Brazil / USA. And between Brazil / Europe the figure is 50 euros (£ 50 for London) the stretch.

  • Helio

    Yes, these seats are offered at website or during Check in.

    I found the correct page in English – now they are calling it Space+:

  • TonyA_says

    Yes exactly, Joe. You should see how an airport handles out-of-gauge items.
    Since they cannot be placed on the automated conveyor and sorting belts, what do you think happens?

  • Helio

    My other post is waiting for moderation…

    They are calling it now Space Plus. To find more information, go to TAM website, change location to USA English, Home > Services > Before Boarding > Space +

  • TonyA_says

    Well you can easily lose the bulkhead seats to families with infants.
    Nothing to lose sleep about :)


    The customer service from these airlines is worse than shoddy for the couple traveling with their bicycles. They should have been compensated by now. But I have a hard time with the fact they used “acceptable packaging”—bubble wrap and a cardboard container to protect expensive bikes. My neighbor travels everywhere with his bike and bought a case to pack it in. He takes the bike apart (about 5 minutes time he says) packs it and checks it for the same fee as these travelers paid. It has been delayed a couple times but no damage so far. If it is valuable either invest in an appropriate container or leave it at home.

  • Tony, as it says in the article, the people involved with the damaged bicycle did make a claim, with both airlines each airline blamed the other and no one accepted responsibility. The CEO was written because everything else had failed.

  • Cat

    I can only hope that technology and faster surface travel, like trains, will someday give the vulture airlines some competition. Would love to see the airline policy makers, who hide behind the skirts of customer service, lose everything they have scammed from consumers.

  • CommonSense

    @Isidora: I have been transcon 6 times in the past 5 months on UA in Business or coach. I bring a gift offering to the cabin crew, a container of chocolate covered fruits, and always get thanks & smiles.

    A recent trip booked for Jan 2 was canceled for weather along with about 3000 other flights and the phone lines were jammed. I had to reebook online & pay $100/ticket to change flight.

    After return home I phoned UA & explained what happened, gave him my confirmation & had a refund in 3 days. No pushback, delay, just friendly service. You get back what you put in.

  • TonyA_says

    Well they can now sue for the claim based on the Montreal Convention.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Eeeew! That last row on an MD-80 is like riding in a coffin. Well, except for the engine screaming in your ear.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I’m gonna see if I can find a tailor who can make me some underwear out of bubble wrap.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Wouldn’t they be WAY better off shipping the bikes with a real shipping company?

  • jim6555

    Southwest Airlines claims because the new seats are thinner, they were able to add the extra row without reducing passenger legroom.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    think bicycles like skis come under liability waiver, that you have to sign at check in + shouldn’t a bike of any value be packed into a hard case, not cardboard ?

  • bodega3

    We have handled travel for many triathlons and the participants only use their own bikes.

  • Guest

    Some Airlines are more careful with Skis and Bikes because the number of checked skis and bikes are higher than other airlines. Air Canada and SWISS do take care of bikes and Skis and they even send and deliver directly at the desired train stations further than Airlines destinations.

  • Carchar

    “How you talk to someone, how you perceive them as lower than you”??? By your first sentence, I see you have no problem doing just that. Perhaps you can step back and look at yourself.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    The response time of upper management to public demands can be glacial at times. Even when a company is going out of business due to bad practices, management and even the workers can sometimes decide that the status quo is more important than long term survival.

    In theory, the way it is supposed to work is that if a company went bankrupt, then another company that better understood the market would take over and other firms would be started to provide competition. But in practice, mergers and takeovers meant denying consumer choice and lowering standards.

    Government regulation is also the answer to the above in theory, but in practice the regulators get bought out by the players and wind up becoming the fox’s representative in the henhouse. I wish I had an easy solution to the conundrum, but that’s the situation as I see it.

    Ok, the good news is that the free market, as it is (see above), does offer choices. Pay for economy plus which is effectively the same as economy in the old days. Another, and Elliott certainly disagrees with this, is loyalty. If you fly enough that this annoys you, then stick to a single carrier alliance and earn status. Status will generate privileges that exceed economy in the old days. And finally, this is a choice many here don’t want to hear but if it’s possible, lose weight so you can fit in the tiny seat, learn how to make reservations and check-in to get the best seat placement possible, buy a portable heated coffee/tea mug and water filter so you can make your own coffee and tea, and bring your own snacks and dessert.

  • gracekelley

    I’ve said this many times but no one ever believed me! Whatever.
    As far as treating people like cargo as long as people choose tickets based on cheaper even if it is only by $5 it won’t change much.

  • gracekelley

    If the airline’s aren’t going to take responsibility for expensive things they need to make a box people check acknowledging that they realize this so they will plan accordingly and package it accordingly.
    I’m not sure I consider bubble wrap and cardboard sufficient but then again expecting someone to purchase a hard case for the bike may be a bit much. I am ambivalent about the damaged goods to an extent only because one they usually lay out pretty clear in the COC and websites what is and isn’t covered as well as the maximum amount they do cover. Another reason is people sometimes don’t stop to think that they are placing it in cargo with hundreds of other people’s things to barrel through the sky at speeds of hundreds of miles an hour. Then you’ve got the actual handling of said valuables where understaffed(I know not the customers concerns) crew who need to get hundreds upon hundreds of things to individual flights and put on the aircraft in little time when thinking about connections especially if you’ve got a 40 minute connection as do hundreds of other people that again also have stuff to be transferred as well. It’s public transportation so multiple people will have very valuable items with them.
    I had someone bring not one but two drums from “Brazil worth hundreds of thousands of dollars” with no hard case or a case at all onto the flight. It was a full flight of course and the closet was already full with instruments. Apparently they were all traveling together but this particular passenger came on last it didn’t fit in the ohb and it didn’t fit under the seat in front of them. None of them had purchased a seat or packaged any of the instruments properly and absolutely refused to gate check it because it would be damaged, obviously. The instruments, IMO, never should have been able to make it to the aircraft but they did so we, as attendants, had no freaking clue what to do. Customer service advice anyone? Putting it in one’s lap is not an option as one that can mean a fine for the attendant if faa is onboard or someone reports them to the faa. Two not to mention whose responsibility will it be if said drums fly out of the person’s lap and hit another passenger in the head due to turbulence or any other rare but can happen circumstances? Most attendants want to keep their jobs so have to reasonably follow regulations. huge drums and the like can’t sit in a lap for take off and landing…
    Why do people not take personal responsibility with these valuables of monetary or sentimental meaning and just assume it’ll work out?
    At what point does customer service end and personal responsibility start when taking public transportation with hundreds of other people that also have things they value as well?
    There’s options avaliable if they plan ahead like ups and FedEx who both I believe guarantee things as one option. Soft cases no cases no seat for it and it can’t be checked really?
    I feel in this bike situation they probably should cover it but situations like the above is what makes it seem like nobody at airlines cares. People buy a ticket then assume they can bring a 2000$ crystal plate with them in just the box it came in and if it gets broken they should be reimbursed and I disagree. As long as someone makes at least an effort to think about what traveling on a commercial aircraft means when taking valuables I can have compassion for them but so many people don’t and where the line? It’s a tough one.
    Which if they didn’t charge for bags people wouldn’t bring the entire kitchen onboard and these valuables may have somewhere to go but I digress if it is valuable to me at all I’m going to assume that the best way to get it where I’m going is to ship it, buy a seat strap it in, or package it to survive darn near armegedon if I fly commercial but that’s just me. Just my opinion doesn’t mean a lot but I’m entitled to my opinion. I’ve learned the hard way if it’s valuable to either drive or do one of the above suggestions i listed.

    I hope for technology and faster ways to travel rather than fly do evolve but even if they do can we assume valuables would be any safer given the same that it still would be public transportation…..

  • Miami510

    Tangential subject: of 861 votes, 11 voted that they have NEVER taken their business
    elsewhere because of bad service.

    I don’t know whether to envy them for being fortunate to have the good luck, good
    sense, or the money to place themselves in situations where they are never
    disappointed by service, that they took their subsequent business elsewhere…
    or so laid back, accepting, or so indiscriminating as to take whatever life has
    to offer and never complain or feel that they deserve better. On the other hand,
    maybe they are just pulling our chains.

    Sometimes I wish I had a wife like that !

  • bayareascott

    Take on their unions?

    It is the corporations that cause the problem, not front-line employees. In most places, these corporations are using the excuse of bankruptcy and mergers to stop paying many of their employees a decent wage. Despite making billions, these corporations are vendoring out work in their smaller stations to the lowest common denominator of wages and often no benefits. So this results in workers that no longer have any investment in the company, and get paid so little that they have no major reason to care about the results.

  • LJ

    In 2000 I travelled to Leeds, UK, from Vancouver on KLM for my Mum’s funeral via Amsterdam. On the connecting flight from Amsterdam to Leeds, one of the 2 engines caught fire. We made a superb emergency landing at Humberside where emergency vehicles were waiting. After a ‘cup of tea’, no choice, we were bused to Leeds. On the return trip, in Amsterdam, the flight by the name of Betty Grable or similar, was unable to take off and after sitting on the runway for many hours and after much persuasion by passengers we were given a voucher for the airport to get refresments. The plane was finally replaced and we set off in another equally old plane. I did write to KLM, hoping for some kind of explanation why 2 out of 4 of their planes had such major problems. Alas, I am awaiting a reply. Yes, I am happy to have survived a flight with an engine on fire but I do think that KLM should acknowledge such a frightening experience. I have steered clear of KLM since

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