Airlines Passenger Satisfaction surveys AND Customer Service Awards – How trustworthy are Air Travel Awards?
Airlines are making fewer mistakes according to a new study, but airline passenger satisfaction surveys aren’t helping United and their almost yearly errors in judgement in serving customers. #United and #flight3411 and #UnitedAirlines are all trending on Twitter again this morning.
After the news this week of United Airlines dragging a man off an airplane flight 3411 in order to make room for mechanics that United needed in Louisville, we take a hard look at both:
1.) Airline satisfaction and
2.) What rights airlines have to not only refuse to fly a paying customer, but to forcibly eject them from an airplane.
First, a quick update on the story of the doctor forcibly dragged off United Airline Flight 3411.
It appears the Flight 3411 from Chicago O’ Hare to Louisville, Kentucky was overbooked. According to Audra Bridges of Louisville, United offered $400 plus an overnight hotel to anyone willing to give up their seat. When there were no takers, the airline announced that four stand-by United mechanics were needed in Louisville and that the plane would not be leaving until those four were boarded. Offers were increased to $800 and a hotel room voucher, but when four passengers still didn’t volunteer to be bumped, the airline let passengers (now already seated aboard) that the computer would be picking four passengers at random and remove them from the plane. One couple left after they were selected/notified, but a man claiming to be a doctor stated that he needed to see patients in Louisville the next morning and could not take a flight the next day.
The man was informed that security would be called. Security boarded the plane and spoke with the man who continued to refuse. Based on videos and eyewitness reports he was then forcibly dragged off the flight while screaming, after a scuffle that caused a bloody lip.
The man somehow ran back onto the plane later, according to Bridges, disoriented and with a bloody face. A medical crew removed him from the plane a second time and passengers were asked to deplane so the crew could “tidy up.” The flight eventually took off, about two hours late. United says he was treated in the air for his injuries. We do not know if others volunteered to be bumped or if any of the four United employees were forced to take a later flight.
Read more here:
Airlines bump passengers off overbooked flights all the time, but it’s rare for them to do so after passengers are already in their seats, said Brian Sumers, airline business reporter at travel industry website Skift.
Forcibly removing passengers is rare.
United’s contract of carriage says the airline can select passengers to bump to a later flight, based on a priority system that can take into account how much passengers paid, how often they fly, whether missing that flight could affect a connecting flight and how early they checked in. People with disabilities and unaccompanied minors are generally last to be bumped. Having good travel insurance is a must when you miss a flight, or end up losing luggage over an overbooked flight.
Videos of the United Airlines passenger being forcibly dragged from his seat on a Sunday overbooked flight already have more than 1 million views, and on Monday, the airline’s CEO called the incident “an upsetting event to all of us here at United.” (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-united-drags-passenger-0411-biz-20170410-story.html)
Man dragged off United Flight 3411 on Youtube:
“We are on this flight. United airlines overbooked the flight. They randomly selected people to kick off so their standby crew could have a seat.”
“This man is a doctor and has to be at the hospital in the morning. He did not want to get off. We are all shaky and so disgusted.”
You can hear the other visibly distraught passengers telling police “Good work. Way to go.” And “Look at what you did to him.” “You busted his lip.”
This happened just days after thunderstorms triggered a bevy of flight disruptions, including some 3,000 Delta flights Delta Air Lines which extended into a third day. http://www.ajc.com/travel/delta-flight-cancellations-continue-friday-was-like-madhouse/D4xg1oVDWwiuOU2kWNgQSI/
Forced off an oversold flight?
Last year, United forced 3,765 people off oversold flights and another 62,895 United passengers volunteered to give up their seats, probably in exchange for travel vouchers. In 2016, four airlines, including United, were fined for not disclosing compensation to bumped passengers.
United was already facing scrutiny over refusing to carry two passengers on stand-by due to their violating the airline’s dress code for employee’s stand-by tickets (http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/26/news/united-airlines-twitter-dress-code/ and http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/03/27/521649877/outrage-explanations-after-united-bans-girls-from-flight-for-wearing-leggings)
This after the debacle in 2015 of United Airlines making D’Arcee Neal, who has cerebral palsy, drag himself off an United Flight after a mix up over a wheelchair. He finally had to crawl out of the plane with no assistance. (United later apologized.) http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/25/us/united-airlines-disabled-man/
What makes that story even worse was, Mr. Neal was returning from a meeting about disabled accessibility. A United Airlines spokesman later said an aisle chair was at the gate when Neal’s plane arrived but removed by mistake before it was his turn to disembark.
“As customers began to exit the aircraft, we made a mistake and told the agent with the aisle chair that it was no longer needed, and it was removed from the area,” the airline said in a statement. “When we realized our error — that Mr. Neal was onboard and needed the aisle chair — we arranged to have it brought back, but it arrived too late.” MR. Neal reportedly was shocked when United made the initiative to contact him and apologize, “because this had happened a couple of times before (with various airlines), and no company had ever bothered to apologize when they’ve done something wrong,” he said.
AIRLINE PASSENGER SATISFACTION AWARDS – CAN THEY BE TRUSTED?
The airlines are getting better at sticking to their schedules and are losing fewer bags. Their customers seem to be complaining less often, but are passengers more satisfied?
A new 2017 annual report on airline quality was released today by researchers at Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
The research uses information compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation to rate the airlines for on-time performance, baggage handling, bumping passengers off oversold flights, and complaints filed with the government.
They also release a list of best airlines.
A summary of the Airline Quality Rating Report’s findings:
Mishandled baggage was better, decreasing from 3.24 per 1,000 passengers in 2015 to 2.70 per 1,000 passengers in 2016.
Involuntary denied boardings per passenger improved to 0.62 per 10,000 passengers in 2016 from 0.76 per 10,000 passengers in 2015.
Consumer complaints across the industry declined to 1.52 per 100,000 passengers in 2016 from 1.90 per 100,000 passengers in 2015.
The on-time arrival percentage was better in 2016 (81.4% compared to 79.9% in 2015).
Conclusions of Travel Airlines Passenger Satisfaction Survey:
– ON TIME PERFORMANCE: Of 12 leading U.S. carriers, only American, JetBlue and Virgin America got worse.
– LOST BAGS: The rate of bags being lost, stolen or delayed fell 17 percent.
– BUMPING PASSENGERS: Chances of being bumped dropped 18 percent (this doesn’t include people who voluntarily gave up their seat for money or a travel voucher).
– FEWER COMPLAINTS: Complaints filed with the government dropped about one-fifth, rising only for Hawaiian and Virgin America.
(This doesn’t include the larger number of complaints that passengers file directly with the airline. Airlines are not required to report those figures.)
Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle researchers have been doing their report for more than 25 years, See past year’s results from 1993-2016 here: http://airlinequalityrating.com/results/ where you can compare airlines.
Some say the statistical analysis of government data “really doesn’t take into consideration how the customer is treated,” said Bryan Saltzburg, an executive with travel site TripAdvisor LLC. “How comfortable are they on the plane? How helpful is the staff? What’s the value for what the customer paid?”
TripAdvisor released its own airline rankings Monday, which it said were based on analysis of “hundreds of thousands” of reviews posted by users. It placed JetBlue and Alaska Airlines among the top 10 in the world, and it rated Delta ahead of American and United among the largest U.S. carriers.
More at https://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Airlines
About TripAdvisor flight ratings
TripAdvisor’s flight search ratings (by customers, similar to rating hotels) became available starting July 11, 2016 on desktop and mobile in 48 countries and 28 languages, so it is still fairly new (data-wise). However it is important to understand that like Yelp restaurant reviews and TripAdvisor hotel reviews, travelers tend to over report “unhappiness” on airlines passenger satisfaction. Travelers have high expectations of on-time flights as well as smooth travels, just to get a “satisfactory” response. The airline reviews, which TripAdvisor began quietly collecting several months ago, are skewing more negatively than their hotel reviews.
So what if an airline refuses to allow you to fly as a paying customer?
Flight crews have a lot of latitude to decide whether to allow a passenger on board.
And pilots can refuse to fly any passenger at their own discretion.
This has caused a number of complaints since 9-11 over crews overreacting. And it hurts airlines passenger satisfaction surveys and sales. Airlines cannot refuse to carry someone based on the person’s race, color, national origin, religion, ethnicity, or sex”, and most airlines do lay out the most common offenses that will get you ejected in their “contract of carriage (which covers all manner of rules that fliers agree to automatically when they purchase a ticket.) However, many people note that these rules are written so broadly as to permit the airline to refuse passage for almost any reason.
You can count on getting delayed or removed:
– If the airline must comply with any government regulation or request for emergency transportation in connection with national defense
– If there is inclement weather or other conditions beyond the airline’s control
– If you refuse to be searched for explosives or concealed weapons
– If you refuse to provide positive identification or don’t have proper documentation for travel across international boundaries
– If you are barefoot or clothed in a way that might be offensive to others
– If you dress or act in such a way to draw attention to yourself/may cause others to be uneasy or offended
– If you attempt to interfere with any member of the flight crew or jeopardize the safety of the plane
– If your conduct is disorderly, abusive or violent, or if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
(These last two seem to include rude t-shirts, pushing the ‘summons’ button too many times, complaining or being too vocal, being in too big of a rush, not being co-operative enough, etc.)
What are your rights if the airlines refuse to allow you to board?
See your rights as an airline passenger here: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights
And extended rights (since 2011) at https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-expands-airline-passenger-protections.
Conde Nast Traveler offers some more advice on how to keep from getting thrown off a plane at http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2015-11-06/how-not-to-get-thrown-off-your-flight.
One thing you can do if bumped or an airlines refuses to allow you to board your flight, immediately call your travel insurance and ask for help. Explain your situation and let them also go to work on your behalf. Most of them also have a travel benefit in case your travel documents go missing or are lost and need replacement.
In the meantime, you can always file a complaint regarding airlines passenger satisfaction, or resort to Twitter if you feel discriminated against or if you are dragged off an airline.