Crosscheck: The Worsening Customer Experience

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jad Mouawad, airline correspondent for The New York Times, discusses how passengers have been squeezed as a result of the airline industry's success, and what consumer protection groups are doing.


Jad Mouawad

Comments [26]

Brian from Hoboken

First class tickets on a NYC to London flight are generally about $5000. I fly for leisure domestically and internationally probably about 5-6 times per year. The cost of my coach tickets is so incredibly low. I can fly to Istanbul for $700! Why? Because the people in first class subsidize the tickets of everyone in coach. Those tickets are usually 10 times as expensive as a coach ticket. I am amazed that people complain given how cheap flying is these days. As for the fees, does it really matter if you pay $400 for a ticket that covers everything or $350 plus $50 in various fees? If anything, the a la carte pricing model allows people to only pay for what they use. I personally would rather see flat rate higher price with everything included so that people didn't try to carry on half their wardrobe, thereby holding up te plane. Why do we phrase this issue as airlines making a profit "in the backs of the flyers" like it's evil? What industry doesn't make their profit off of their customers?

Jan. 12 2012 11:34 AM
Lynn from New Jersey

Thank you Brian Lehrer for this a.m.'s interview with airline correspondent, Jan Mouawad. Your followup question to Jad regarding whether or not "a first time flight" for co-pilots is undertaken with passengers aboard was an interesting question. The candid answer was very disturbing.

To think one would even consider booking a flight which would be co-piloted by a "newbie" pilot with only experienced simulator time is just crazy! If I had a choice, not on my dime. I am sure I am not alone with that decision. What passenger would willingly choose such a flight? The situation "sounds bad" indeed. What is the industry thinking?...Saving the buck $$?

Doesn't sound legal. What we don't know can hurt us.

Very enlightening. Thank you.

Jan. 12 2012 11:19 AM
The Truth from Becky

Yeah right, fly into or out of Newark if you NEVER want to be on time! I prefer LaGuardia to the other two and I never, never fly Delta, off the chart rude flight attendants..

Jan. 12 2012 11:13 AM

How MUCH profit?

This is the question.

Jan. 12 2012 11:07 AM
Jaime Viñas from TriBeCa

We fly regularly out of Newark. Prefer it to La Guardia or JFK.
If our plane arrives somewhat on time and the airline doesn't lose your luggage, it feels like we had good flight.
Let's face it. There's no glamour in air flight anymore:
They make you pay for checking your luggage.
They charge you for the uneatable food they serve. (So people bring in their own and the whole plane smells like McDonald's — I don't blame them).
And the overworked-underpaid-short-fused staff treat you poorly.
What are we to do? We are at their mercy.

Jan. 12 2012 11:06 AM
Erika from Brooklyn

The reason travelers insist on bringing so much carry-on luggage onto airplanes is not just because of the baggage charges but because most of us have learned that if you check your baggage you are unlikely that it will arrive at your destination when you do!

Jan. 12 2012 11:04 AM

@bernie from bklyn

FANTASTIC observation!!

Jan. 12 2012 11:00 AM
The Truth from Becky

The Airlines and the dang CABLE people need to be looked at closely. The airlines have me traveling with an overnight bag for a weeks stay. My new trick is to approach the gate with the bag and let them offer me to check it, for free...cable well, it's optional but..we get more channels and the signal gets weaker, pay for HD outlet and service...what's that all about COMCAST!!

Jan. 12 2012 10:59 AM
jnyc from new york

In flying United/Continental over this holiday season, it came to my attention that in order to ensure a seat (on a flight you've paid for) you MUST check in online. Passengers are allowed to check in up to 24hrs before their flight, so when I checked in, in person at 4:30am for a connecting flight at 8:30am, I was not actually given a seat assignment. Apparently the entire flight was full, and my party's seats were given away because we had not checked in online.
Same story, next issue... upon arriving to my gate for the second flight, there were announcements seeking volunteers. No one volunteered, so the gate agent said well we're bumping those passengers who paid the lowest fair. To my horror I watched as a elderly couple stood up, went to the ticket counter and were told they would have to take the next flight.
Moral of this horror story: always check in online (preferably from you smart phone as soon as you get the email.) and pay full fare so you don't get thrown off the flight.

Jan. 12 2012 10:59 AM
Stu from Mountainside, NJ

Airlines have issues, for sure. But what is equally if not more frustrating is the ridiculous amount of baggage that patrons insist on carrying-on these days. Travelers are so inpatient that they can't wait for 10 minutes to get checked baggage, consequently it takes so much longer to board and to deplane, and there is increasingly less room for people to sit comfortably. Get over it! Check your bag!!

Jan. 12 2012 10:58 AM
bw from NYC

It's irritating to pay for a pillow and a blanket, yes, but overall I've been amazed at the level of service for the price. I flew from Seattle to New York in 1982, and paid $360 for a round trip. I'm *still* paying about the same price 30 years later.

Jan. 12 2012 10:58 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Why is it such a problem to let the passengers off the plane if it's going to be hours before takeoff that the airlines would rather cancel flights?

Jan. 12 2012 10:58 AM
Zen from S Salem

I have taken several flights out of JFK the past year or two and have had no trouble at all. I have no problem with the idea of paying for an overweight bag. A big factor in delaying flights that no one wants to addrerss is the carry on bag nonsense. All that wrestling around with overhead compartments delays departure from the gate. Carry on size rule should be made stricter, or at the very least enforced !
Food in the terminals is now great as opposed to years ago.

Jan. 12 2012 10:58 AM

The airline worker caller = psychotic AND delusional!!!


The process is MISERABLE!

From the time you purchase your ticket to the moment you arriver at your detination.


Jan. 12 2012 10:57 AM

The airline ind has NEVER been profitable.

Two illustrations.

1. 30 years ago, a long-time PanAm worker characterized that airline as: if it were a sub-chapter S company, the IRS would declare them not a serious business and disallow its tax status.

2. I once asked an airline ind analyst on Wall St why anyone would ever 'invest' in airline ind stock why anyone would ever buy stock in any corp in the industry. He gave me a wry smile and answered that they thought they could time the cycle.

Jan. 12 2012 10:57 AM

US airways seems to overbook every flight!
then boot a few people if no one excepts vouchers

Seems corrupt if not criminal...

Jan. 12 2012 10:57 AM

The airlines have entered a vicious spiral downward. They charge fees for pillows, blankets, bags, etc. So passengers make do with less. Then the airlines need to find a new way to make more money, so they charge more for more basic stuff. The most recent thing I've seen is added fees for having an aisle seat, more legroom, etc.

Meanwhile, treatment for first class passenger gets more and more luxurious — now there are actual beds in some first-class areas.

Politicians have no incentive to improve things because they get special treatment when they travel. The notorious cases of a politician's mother waiting makes news precisely because of failure of the radar the airlines have to treat people well because they _have_ to for political reasons.

As for the caller who says that "airlines deserve to make a profit" — what a crock! NO company _deserves_ to make a profit. They have a right to _try_ to make a profit.

Jan. 12 2012 10:55 AM
h l

The denver airport experience is horrid. The security is the slowest i've ever experienced. People miss flights regularly because of it.

Jan. 12 2012 10:54 AM

If I could, I would NEVER fly again. These companies and the TSA have dehumanized and nickeled and dimed every minute pleasantry that made the process bearable. It starts which the deceptive priceing model. How does a fare go from $150 to $750 by the time you check-out??

Just be STRAIGHT with me!!!


Jan. 12 2012 10:54 AM
Peter from Brooklyn

After a recent cattle car experience in immigration at London Heathrow that I had previously thought was only reserved for Miami International at the height of the drug war, and reading recently about the increasing use of fractionally owned jets and high end first class that allows the wealthy to avoid normal airport and customs lines altogether, I have come to believe that regular airline service will continue to be the equvalent of Greyhound bus service, a necessary evil to be used only by those who have no other alternative. It used to be that the airlines and airports had to provide decent service for the middle class as part of keeping their wealthier clientele happy. Once they no longer have to serve the wealthy, the middle class be damned.

Jan. 12 2012 10:54 AM
Mike from Manhattan

This is very timely! Friday my wife flew on Continental Airline from Newark to Lima, Peru due to a family emergency. The airplane was stopped on the runway when there was a problem with the fuel...when the plane began to move, a strong reek of kerosene filled the cabin. After leaving the plane, my wife was told by an airport staff member (in Spanish so it could not be overheard) that the same thing had happened to a plane the day before.

It took until after 5:30 for a plane to be ready for the trip. By the time the plane was approaching Chavez airport in Lima, that airport was closed, due to construction that has been going on for several months. The plane could not land so it had to fly back to Panama City! It did not arrive until after 3:00 PM, but by that time she had missed her connecting flight.

Jan. 12 2012 10:53 AM
Ana from Brooklyn

The young airlines lower the flight attendants' attire standards and treatment of customers. They claim to be affordable, but in fact it is more expensive, considering that nothing on those flights is included in ticket price which is already high.

Jan. 12 2012 10:53 AM
h l

I only fly jetblue so my experience is usually awesome. Customer service is great too. They changed my tkt w no penalty when i made a mistake online purchase. Also i missed a flight once because it was at 12 am. I thought it was for the next day so i mised the flt. Jetblue called me, THEN rescheduled my flt, no charge!

Jan. 12 2012 10:52 AM
bernie from bklyn

i fly alot and what i've noticed is that flying is a microcosm of our society as a whole right now....the first class seems bigger and the people who have the money to get the preferred amenities is expanding while those in coach are getting screwed even more than ever. in other words, all of the extra amenities are being provided to the wealthy passengers at the expense of the working class coach passengers. same way it is everyday on the ground in our oligarchy called the USA.

Jan. 12 2012 10:51 AM

Oh, excuse me. Airline ind is getting more profitable on the backs or workers, govt subsidies AND customers. More corp welfare and more screwing the workers.

Jan. 12 2012 10:49 AM
Brenda from New York City

Are there any airplane experiences left that do not bear a strong resemblance to an emergency shelter? This is not a rhetorical question. My last excursion left me considering avoiding travel all together. I natter more here:

Jan. 12 2012 07:17 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.