Let’s bring back a little compassion to travel

I don’t know how we lost it. But if there was one thing I could fix about the travel industry, it would be to bring back the compassion that once defined it.
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A holiday surprise from the travel industry

Sometimes when you travel, it’s the little gestures of compassion that make the biggest difference — especially during the holidays.

For Becky Brand, it was the bus driver on Washington’s L2 line who went out of his way to help her during Thanksgiving week. “While I was struggling with a heavy suitcase in the rain, he made my day by stopping to let me on instead of having me run to the bus stop a block away,” says Brand, who works for a legal advocacy group in the capital. “Although a small and random act of kindness, it made my holiday week and definitely gave me something to be thankful for.”

Jenny Block remembers the nameless American Airlines employee who answered her plea on Twitter. Her cousin had been left in a coma after a traffic accident, and she needed the airline to bend a flight change rule. Block, a writer who lives in Dallas, received an immediate reply: Of course the airline would help her.

“You won’t believe this part,” she told me. “It happened on Thanksgiving morning.”

Oh no, that part I would believe.
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Re-regulate the airlines? “Trust me, before was better”

A movement to re-regulate the airline industry is slowly gaining momentum in Washington. A few days ago, my colleague Charlie Leocha send me an audio transcript of an interview with Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in which he raised the subject.

Now, my readers are sounding off about the idea. Readers like Marilyn Wright, a former travel agent who worked before, during and after the airlines were deregulated in 1978.

“Allow me one quick ‘I told you so’,” she says.
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“At times it feels as though the airline industry has been pushed over a cliff”

herbstRobert Herbst runs the Web site AirlineFinancials.com, which has provided some of the more memorable and controversial airline analysis for this site and many other media outlets. Herbst is a pilot for a major American airline — I agreed not to mention it in this interview, but his employer has been disclosed elsewhere — and has been crunching airline numbers for many years. He flies Boeing 767 and 757 aircraft in the United States, where you’re likely to find him on southern routes during the winter months.
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Car rental FAIL? Industry misses a “D” by one point — again

endPretend, for a minute, that car rental companies are high school students. The average class grade on a recet test is 73 percent, which is a C- and, truth be told, just a point away from a D.

Would you:

a) Shut up and try to do better on the next exam.
b) Complain to the teacher.
c) Tell the world about your achievement.

Did you say “C”? Well, after our friends at J.D. Power and Associates released its 2009 U.S. Rental Car Satisfaction Study, the industry seems pretty pleased with itself, particularly those who scored more of those mysterious but ultimately meaningless circles.

Overall satisfaction averaged just 733 on a 1,000-point scale in 2009, down from 734 in 2008. In comparison, overall satisfaction declined by 16 points in 2007 and 17 points in 2008.

What does this mean to you?
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