Delusional airline industry pats itself on the back for “amazing” customer service

wreckLook up the word “delusional” in the dictionary and you’ll see a plane and the address of the Air Transport Association in Washington.

Case-in-point: the just-released annual economic report (PDF), which puts the airline trade group in the same league as the tobacco industry lobbyists of years ago that peddled lies and half-truths to an unsuspecting public.

As a customer service advocate, I was immediately drawn to the section of the report dealing with service. And there it was, under the heading “evolutionary thinking.”

I hardly know where to begin, so I though I’d just excerpt the whole page with my annotations.

Every day two million people, more than a million bags and 50,000 tons of cargo are boarded on thousands of planes at airports around the country, traveling on 25,000 flights to thousands of places around the world – from Tacoma to Tangiers to Takamatsu.

As a popular comedian remarked on late-night television, isn’t it amazing that you can be sitting “in a chair in the sky” – which may not recline quite as far as you’d like – but which carries you across the country in just four to five hours and allows you to read, relax and even surf the Internet along the way?

Um, which “popular” comedian would that be? Sounds more like an airline lobbyist, truth be told.

(Noted from the comments: It’s Conan O’Brien. And I thought it was James May. Silly me!)

Yes, it is indeed amazing.

And rest assured that, as your flight makes its way across the country or across the globe, airline employees – onboard your flight and throughout the system – are doing their best to make sure that your journey is safe, pleasant and on schedule.

Really? Tell that to the thousands of passengers who have been trapped on the tarmac in the last year.

Unfortunately, even the best-laid plans sometimes do not work as expected and, when that happens, customers are understandably disappointed. Because their goal is to exceed customers’ expectations, airlines strive every day to make better plans. Government reports indicate that those efforts are paying off; customer service is, in fact, improving. Airlines know that satisfied customers are loyal customers and, in today’s extremely competitive marketplace, airlines are vying for loyalty, constantly rethinking and revising procedures to provide even better service to their customers.

Oh, please. Your goal isn’t to exceed customers’ expectation — it’s to exceed your shareholders’ expectations. And where are you getting your customer-service information from? Show me one survey that suggests even a small improvement in customer service. Just one.

Airline service continues to evolve in response to the needs of customers. Not too long ago, frustrating waits with airline reservation agents; piecing together multiple tickets on multiple airlines; standing in long lines to check and recheck bags; and 1950s-era communications, navigational and surveillance systems were the norm.

Today, passengers book reservations, check in for flights and print boarding passes online from their homes, offices or mobile devices; schedule seamless itineraries while airlines and their partners take care of the logistics; watch real-time television and their choice of blockbuster movies; and crisscross the continents without the slightest worry. Not too long ago, just-in-time delivery of goods was merely an aspiration.

Today, time-sensitive cargo is shipped around the world in a matter of days – sometimes even hours. Without question, the safe, efficient movement of people and goods has changed all of our lives and enabled a global economy.

True, but you were about 20 years behind other industry’s in tossing out your antiquated legacy systems and adopting new technology. This is nothing to gloat about.

As the customer service evolution continues, airlines are focused on addressing a dilemma that is largely outside of their control: flight delays. Delays – infuriating to both airlines and their customers – cost the nation’s economy $40 billion each year, according to the congressional Joint Economic Committee, in lost productivity, missed business meetings and opportunities, cancelled and delayed vacations and, perhaps most importantly, disrupted family events.

The nation’s outdated, inefficient air traffic control (ATC) system is the primary culprit, allowing poor weather to wreak havoc on flight schedules, and delays in New York and in other traffic centers to ripple throughout the system. The answer: accelerate ATC modernization. We – the administration, agencies, airlines, airports, air traffic controllers, general aviation and others – must work together and take the necessary steps to get the job done – in a few years, not a few decades.

You dont’ think this could have anything to do with the fact that all of your flights are scheduled to leave from LaGuardia during a one-hour window? Nah, couldn’t be. Let’s blame it all on the ol’ air traffic control system.

If we do, flight delays, fuel burn and emissions will decrease, improving efficiency, customer service and environmental performance.

Ultimately, the overall economy will reap tremendous benefits and as the economy recovers, the customer service evolution will continue.

A nod to the environment. I like that. Let’s just set aside the fact that your airlines are ripping a hole in the ozone layer. What does any of this have to do with customer service?


The domestic airline industry is the most complained-about American business since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The airline industry needs to be honest with itself — and with its customers — if wants to improve.

This airline propaganda is a big step backwards.

(Photo: YoNoSoyTu/Flickr Creative Commons)

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend