Being an airline executive ain’t what it used to be. Air France executives literally lost their shirts after the company laid its cards on the table, revealing layoffs that will leave thousands jobless.
Evelyn Tachau-Brown probably deserves something after her recent Delta Air Lines flight. But what?
Question: I’m a graduate student at the University of Texas and I was recently awarded a fellowship to conduct research for two months in Ibadan, Nigeria. Believing that I would be departing from New York and then returning to Austin, Texas, I booked the trip in two legs. However, knowing that this could change, I reviewed the refund policies for both legs carefully to make sure the tickets were refundable.
With good reason: The seats have 38 inches of “pitch” and are 19 inches wide, a sharp contrast to the medieval 32 inches of legroom and 17 inches of seat space in economy class. (Seriously, folks, that should be illegal.)
But try as hard as they might, the Roccafortes couldn’t avoid Torture Class on their transatlantic flight.
“We arrived at Charles de Gaulle three hours before our flight to check in and were told that the flight was very full,” remembers Lisa Roccaforte. “The woman that checked us in told us we may be moved to business class.”
When kids misbehave on a plane, adults like to play the blame game. Who’s responsible for the little brats: the kids, the negligent parents, or the laissez-fare airline?
That’s what Claire Muller-Moseley, a college professor from San Francisco, wanted to know after enduring a recent Air France flight from Paris to San Francisco. And it’s a timely question, given the recent report of a family who was removed from a United Airlines flight amid a disagreement about the inflight entertainment choices.
“The yelling, screaming, and seat kicking of the two children seated behind us was not once stopped by the parents,” she remembers. “I issued disapproving glances over the back of my seat several times, without the parents’ reaction or effort to stop the ear-piercing vocalizations and bad behavior.”
To fly from San Francisco to Paris last month, Kenneth Cook forked over 100,00 miles and paid a $194 fee 10 months before his scheduled flight. The routing wasn’t ideal — it sent him via Denver and Frankfurt, but for that, he was getting choice seats in the front of the plane.
The least he expected was the see his luggage at the end of the journey, and that if he didn’t, the airline would take care of everything.
Brian Lee and Alisha Singh were looking forward to their Air France flight the same way all of us used to anticipate flying, and a few of us still do.
They were traveling from New York to Paris on an Air France Airbus A380, the famous double-decker superjumbo, and in premium economy class. “We were very excited,” he says.
John Hamilton wishes he had. He’s a member of Flying Blue, the loyalty program operated by Air France and KLM. He recently flew on Delta Air Lines, an Air France codeshare partner, and expected to get Flying Blue credit.
Here’s an important footnote to the airline industry’s year from hell. A closer look at the Transportation Department’s 2007 report card shows some carriers were likelier to lose your luggage, deny you boarding, get you to your destination late and provoke a written complaint. And some airlines were above it all.
Here’s a birds-eye view of the DOT’s report, by category. I’ve broken it down into in an easy-to-understand blog posting so that you can sort the winners from the sinners and make a more informed booking decision.
Which airline is likeliest to lose my luggage?
No surprises here. The Hawaiian carriers outperformed everyone else. Low fare carriers did better than legacy airlines. And regional carriers continued their underperforming streak.
Mishandled baggage (reports per 1,000 passengers)
1. Hawaiian Airlines (3.41)
2. Aloha Airlines (3.88)
3. AirTran Airways (4.06)
4. Northwest Airlines (5.01)
5. JetBlue Airways (5.23)
1. American Eagle (13.55)
2. Comair (11.40)
3. Atlantic Southeast (11.24)
4. Skywest (10.87)
5. Mesa Airlines (10.46)
The industry average for mishandled baggage was 7.03, compared with 6.73 in 2006. Two years ago, the top performer was Hawaiian (3.14) and the airline with the worst record was Atlantic Southeast (17.37).
Which airline will oversell its flight and bump me?
Among the best performers, there were no surprises except one: United Airlines. Legacy carriers routinely overbook their flights and then deny passengers boarding. But United seems to have gotten its act together. Delta, on the other hand, does not. It joined the bottom-feeding regional carriers.
Involuntary denied boardings per 10,000 passengers.
1. JetBlue Airways (.02)
2. AirTran Airways (.15)
3. Hawaiian Airlines (.17)
4. Aloha (.29)
5. United (.71)
1. Atlantic Southeast (4.50)
2. Comair (3.15)
3. Delta Air Lines (2.47)
4. Skywest (1.69)
5. Mesa Airlines (1.54)
The industry average last year was 1.12 involuntary denied boardings per 10,000 passengers, compared with 1 in 2006. JetBlue was the best performer in 2006, with .07 involuntary denied boardings, and Atlantic Southeast lost in the category, with 4.47 IDBs per 10k passengers.
Which airline am I most likely to complain about?
The legacy airlines were clear winners – I mean, losers – in the complaints category. If you were flying internationally, British Airways led by a wide margin.
1. US Airways (1,828)
2. American Airlines (1,617)
3. United Airlines (1,540)
4. Delta Air Lines (1,325)
5. Northwest Airlines (768)
1. British Airways (285)
2. Alitalia (173)
3. Air France (152)
4. Lufthansa (84)
5. Iberia (72)
Which online agencies am I most likely to complain about?
This is a relatively new category for the DOT report card. I would expect next year’s numbers to be higher, now that passengers are aware they can gripe about their online travel agency, too.
1. Orbitz (45)
2. Travelocity (35)
3. Expedia (30)
4. Cheaptickets (22)
5. Cheapoair/Priceline (tie) (16)
Which airline runs on time?
Again, the Hawaiian carriers and low-fare airlines dominated, with a surprise appearance by Delta. Rounding out the bottom are two legacy carriers and the usual suspects — regional carriers.
Overall percentage of reported flight operations arriving on time
1. Hawaiian (93.3)
2. Aloha (92.2)
3. Southwest (80.1)
4. Frontier (77.6)
5. Delta (76.9)
1. Atlantic Southeast (64.7)
2. Comair (67.9)
3. US Airways (68.7)
4. American (68.7)
5. American Eagle (69.1)
The industry average for 2007 was 73.4 percent, well below the historical average (over the last 20 years) of 78.3 percent.
What to make of these numbers?
If you want a quality flying experience in the lower 48, go for a low-fare carrier. If you’re into pain, try a legacy carrier or better yet, a regional airline.