Complaints about airline service are on the rise as cost cutting measures are starting to cut into passenger experience expectations. At the front of the passenger experience cutbacks are frequent business travelers who feel every airline policy change.
A few days ago the New York Times ran an article by Tom Szaky entitled:
Mr. Szaky’s article made some great points, and I want to answer some of them for you so that you have a better idea of what the true causes may be.
1. Outlets: How often do you wander an airport looking desperately for an electrical outlet?
I agree, outlets are way too hard to find in airports, and even more insulting, some don’t even work. The reason behind this has to do with when most major airports were built. Almost all of our major air travel buildings pre-date cell phones, laptop computers, tablets, and almost every other plug-in device.
When Chicago O’Hare, or Atlanta Hartsfield were constructed, there was just no need for outlets every 5 feet. Airports, and more notably airlines, are starting to take notice and outlets during renovations. Southwest, for example, now has entire charging/work stations at nearly every gate at major airports. Delta is slowly following suit.
2. Nonreclining seats: This is almost insulting… And then the best part is when you are landing and the airline attendants make a fuss about moving your seat back into an upright position.
This is all about economics. The closer an airline can squeeze the seats, the more passengers it can fly. Another key item for frequent fliers is to make sure you don’t get a seat with an exit row behind it. Double exit rows are common on Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft. In these aircraft the forward of the two rows may not recline to prevent blocking the exit row behind it.
Even though the recline doesn’t seem like much, it can make getting out of an aircraft much harder. Airline rows are already cramped, and reducing the space just 6-8 more inches can hinder your ability to quickly make it to the aisle. Flight attendants are required by FAA regulation to make sure that seat backs are upright before landing so that they do not interfere in case of an evacuation.
3. The cabin P.A.: I’ve had flights where my movie seemed to be interrupted by sales pitches every 10 minutes — in three languages.
Any business person should be able to appreciate the upsell. Airlines know you are a captive audience and they want to sell you their on-board products. The number of announcements has increased in recent years from airlines separating services from ticket cost. All of those $10 sandwiches are a huge revenue generator for airlines.
The unfortunate reality is that either passengers will have to pay much more upfront for a ticket, or endure sales pitches for airline products.
4. Checking in: Depending on the airline and the destination, the cutoff time for check-in booths and kiosks to stop giving boarding passes is generally 30 minutes to 60 minutes before departure…. just give me a chance to run to the gate and make it.
There are a few issues as work here. The first has to do with time. Airplane boarding doors are supposed to close 10 minutes before departure. This gives flight attendants and customer service agents ample time to remedy any passenger count issues and properly clear the boarding list. Checking in less than 30 minutes before departure means you only have 20 minutes or less to make it through security and to your gate. The 60 minute rule is generally for international flights and is mainly due to customs.
What you might not realize is airlines really do try to wait for all passengers who have checked in for a flight to board. It may not seem like it, but there are many flights delayed each day while gate agents attempt to find passengers who have checked in but have not boarded. Some of these issues are human error where a boarding pass was not scanned, other time passengers check-in, but cannot make it to the gate on time (or sometimes even 10 minutes late). Forcing customers to be early means less delay in waiting for passengers working their way through security or around large airports.
Related: We have a runner!
5. Lounge rules: Some airlines let you into the lounge only if you are flying internationally. But since when do Mexico and Canada (my homeland) belong to the United States?
Mexico and Canada have fallen off of the international perks list primarily because there is no ticket cost premium for North American destinations. It’s no secret that airlines make big money off of international routes, but look closer and you’ll see the money routes generally cross an Ocean or two.
Air travel is the only viable option to cross an ocean quickly, Mexico and Canada are both within driving distance for many Americans, which has brought prices and amenities down for air travel. The large number of Canadian and Mexican nationals living in the US, has also helped to “domesticate” most of these routes.
6. Alcohol policy: …why is it that you can bring a sandwich and a Coke on board from an airport shop but you can’t bring a beer?
There are many FAA regulations surrounding passengers and alcohol, and the airlines must enforce them all. The FAA will not allow any alcoholic beverage to be consumed on-board an aircraft unless it has been provided by the air carrier. Additionally, the airline is not allowed to allow anyone who appears to be intoxicated to board an aircraft. Unfortunately complaining to the airline isn’t going to make this rule go away.
Share your airline gripes and experiences below. I’d be happy to answer them.