“Wrong on so many levels”

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Wrong on so many levels.

That’s what commenter Mary Graham called this week’s top story about Frontier kicking a minor off a flight not once, but twice, on Christmas Eve.

She not only succinctly described our sentiments about the arbitrary and capricious behavior of a Frontier agent, but indeed, how we feel about an industry that seems accountable to no one.

The counterpoint? This heartwarming story about an Endeavor Air pilot who turned the plane around so a family could make it to their father’s funeral. Delta is taking credit for it, but make no mistake, this was one of those little regional airlines with an underpaid crew and every reason to stay on schedule.

People love stories like that because, like a life preserver thrown to a drowning passenger, they give us hope that there’s still some humanity left in air transportation.

But what if the ship itself is sinking? What if the Frontier employee who called a customer an “idiot” was speaking not only for her airline, but for the entire airline industry?

Do they hate our cheapness? Do they think we’re naive to expect high service levels with their unsustainably low fares? Do they really believe we’re idiots?

It doesn’t matter. The solution doesn’t lie with them, but with us. We have to elect representatives who will not allow a poorly-regulated industry to give us “you-get-what-you-deserve” service, unconscionable fees and toxic hatred toward the very people who pay their bills. We have to stop offering these companies, whose business models are deception and disdain for their customer, our hard-earned money.

Perhaps a good start is to recognize the companies that take care of their customer. Our 2016 Reader’s Choice Awards are out this morning, and you can find the companies you like on the list. No, you won’t see Frontier or Spirit there, but the winner’s circle is not without a few surprises. (Also hot off the presses today is my FAQ section on money and travel, which is also kind of appropriate.)

I’m not going to call this a New Year’s resolution, because I’ve stopped making those. But maybe in 2016, we can find a way to stop blaming everyone else for the awful service we receive and to start doing something about it.

Come on. It’s an election year in the United States. The Department of Transportation is on the verge of another landmark rulemaking on airline passenger rights that needs your comments in order to succeed. And you still have a choice when it comes to transportation and accommodations. Vote with your wallets.

Don’t let the bad guys win this year.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • Frank Clarke

    CE, government regulators with their thumbs on the scales have given us an airline industry freed from the rigors of competition (and all that entails) and now you call for us to “elect representatives who will not allow a poorly-regulated industry…”.

    Please tell me this was written under the influence of too much champagne. These are the same people who embargoed Dallas Love Field for the benefit of their campaign contributors. It beggars the imagination to expect them to perform differently simply because we ask them nicely.

  • Extramail

    What good does it do to write to our congressmen? Or was it a port authority official who made a ruling so he could fly to Florida? It doesn’t seem to matter who we elect. Our elected officials are bought and paid for by somebody and it certainly isn’t their constituents. Thus, the only thing we have to vote with is our own dollar bill. Do business with whomever you think gives you the best bang for your buck.

  • Mike

    The parent broke the rules. You stay at the gate until wheels up in case something happens that causes a return to the gate. When meeting an unaccompanied minor you are asked to be at the gate as much as an hour early. But people often don’t understand the rules. Here the airline had the opportunity to educate the parents. Its extreme actions were cruel and unnecessary. Shame on it.

  • Jessica Monsell

    The vast majority of flights take off and land without major incident, without stranding passengers, losing their luggage, or worse, unaccompanied children. But the airline industry is one where when things go bad, they have a major impact on lives. We are not talking about minor inconveniences. People lose time, money and at times, human dignity. The European bill of passenger rights is the most comprehensive model out there to help passengers when things go wrong. It discourages the extreme circumstances which have only been partly addressed by the USDOT bill of passenger rights, primarily because airlines’ bottom lines are affected. If that means we pay a little more money, we should. Commenters blame Amber Lloyd for trusting a budget airline with her nephew. We get similar cases on legacy airlines and well-respected international

  • Yes, this election year gives passengers an opportunity to claw back some of the rights they have lost, policy change by policy change, over the years. If we don’t make the candidates commit to a Passenger Bill of Rights now, it’s never going to happen.

  • BMG4ME

    Delta can take the credit for Endeavor Air since they are a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta. Nice gesture by Endeavor and Delta.

  • just me

    Chris – I am sorry but in this piece you touch things that leave me a little angry. I’ll explain.

    Your wrote: “The Department of Transportation is on the verge of another landmark rulemaking on airline passenger rights that needs your comments.” So where is the link to the place where we can make comments?

    You wrote that low ticket prices are unsustainable. Please prove it. The low ticket prices are overpriced. Please ask someone from inside the price setting departments. The only way the prices are unsustainable is when you try to calculate how many $200 ticket it takes to pay CEO’s millions with golden parachutes. It is the CEO’s compensation and board of director’s fees that is unsustainable and unreasonable.
    It appears that certain group of the USA population does not understand how real economy works but understands how to flees under any circumstances. This has nothing to do with capitalism and everything to do with wild west robbers. In short for economy to work it needs a lot of people with available spending money (money for food and shelter does not count). After elimination of pension plans, labour unions, pensioned retirees, better than livable wages, pricing state colleges out of sight for most – there is nothing left for economy to function properly.

  • Michael__K

    Why are the airlines an industry that receives this level of attention and regulation, when so many other commercial industries….

    The premise of this statement is entirely wrong.

    The airline industry is uniquely immune from state and local laws, including consumer protection and contract laws (such as truth-in-advertising laws; duty of good faith and fair dealing; contract reciprocity, et. al.) thanks to the Airline Deregulation Act and its interpretation by the Courts.

    The Department of Transportation was designed to fill this void but it does not have the authority to adjudicate passenger claims.

    See:
    http://hasbrouck.org/blog/archives/002127.html