5 ways airlines could improve customer service now

S. Buddha/Shutterstock
S. Buddha/Shutterstock
Let’s face it, airlines aren’t exactly known for their outstanding customer service. They haven’t been for years. And you don’t have to be Alison Jaerianna to know that.

It helps, though. After scoring a space-available upgrade to business class on a Delta Air Lines flight from Pittsburgh to New York, Jaerianna’s luck ran out. The airline canceled her flight at the last minute and rebooked her on another one.

When she boarded the aircraft, she found herself in an uncomfortable middle seat. In the last row.

Delta promised to send her a $50 voucher as an apology.

“That was a year ago,” she says.

Sadly, experiences like hers are routine in this business. It goes with the territory when you’re flying in the 21st century. And while I do hear some positive stories about airline service from time to time, it’s the complaints that lead to the airline industry’s dismal rating.

The authoritative American Customer Service Index gives the U.S. airline industry a cumulative score of 67 out of 100, which is slightly better than the year before but still hardly a ringing endorsement, either. (If you must know, Delta’s score was a 65.)

The outlook isn’t much better. American Airlines and US Airways are about to merge, and no one seriously believes customer service will improve — at least not in the short term.

But what can airlines, which are currently enjoying record profits, do right now to improve their service? Here are five steps that would cost virtually nothing:

1. Implement minimum seat width and legroom standards. Before deregulation, when even the seats in the back of the plane had 36 inches of legroom, no one had to ask for a civil amount of space. But in a time when some seats are so tightly packed in that the passenger in front of you can’t lean back without slamming into your knees, we have a real problem. I just spent the better part of a day on a United Airlines Boeing 737, where the seat pitch in economy class was a snug 31 inches. Even dogs have it better when they fly. Maybe we should agree to a minimum seat pitch of 34 inches, which is a little less than you get in premium economy class and slightly more than in today’s economy class.

2. Allow us to bundle our own airfare before we book. Right now, several forward-looking airlines are “rebundling” fares to include the cost of a checked bag or priority boarding, like McDonald’s value meals. This isn’t new; they’ve been working on the technology for years. But only they can do the bundling. We can’t even pull up a fare that includes a bag, a sandwich and a Wi-Fi connection and find out what all that will cost before we click on the “buy” button. Often, we must wait until after we buy or until we’re at the airport. This DIY bundling would give us the kind of fare transparency that would allow us to know exactly how much our ticket will cost.

3. Add customer commitments to the airline contract. The Transportation Department requires that airlines follow their contract of carriage, which is the legal agreement between you and the airline, but they don’t tell them what to put in it. Airlines should voluntarily include their customer commitments in the contract, which cover how passengers will be treated if there’s a delay or a service interruption.

4. Adopt a “plain English” and standard contract of carriage. One more change needs to be made: The contracts must get rid of cryptic legal terms like “Force Majeure,” and use more understandable words like “an event beyond our control.” What’s more, air carriers ought to agree on standard language in every contract that addresses basic issues like lost luggage, mechanical delays and rebooking.

5. Follow the law. Many airlines continue to flout important consumer rules. One law that’s consistently disregarded is EU 261, which offers cash compensation for passengers delayed on flights to and from Europe. The loophole? A clever interpretation of the rule that reassigns the blame for a delay, allowing the carrier to withhold compensation from its customers. It’s hardly the only rule that’s being disregarded. Airlines also routinely ignore rules about notifying customers of flight delays, keeping them on the plane during a ground delay, displaying an airfare that includes all mandatory taxes and fees, and many others. Following the laws would significantly improve service.

Airlines could make their products measurably better by giving us a few extra inches of legroom, telling us exactly how much our ticket will cost, making their contracts more consumer-friendly and easier to understand, and following the rules instead of fighting them.

Best of all, the cost of these changes would be negligible, and easily offset by the goodwill and loyalty generated by the customers who would benefit from them.

Speaking of goodwill, Jaerianna’s eventually received her $50 voucher after I contacted Delta on her behalf. And just to be clear, she wasn’t entitled to anything for the downgrade, but a promise is a promise.

“The moral of the story?” she says. “Don’t expect anything.”

Are airlines motivated to improve customer service?

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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 the new forum.

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  • FBS

    Pittsburg to NYC? Oh the horrors! I can only imagine the agony she experienced.

  • technomage1

    The legroom on aircraft is ridiculoisly small. Americans are taller than in the days before deregulation but the seats are smaller. Makes no sense.

  • hotel le president

    great tips! But still there are many flaws to be corrected.

  • $16635417

    What? No elimination of loyalty programs…forcing the airlines to compete for your business in other ways?

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It does makes sense…it is low fares. The public want low fares and in order to have low fares, the airlines put in more row of seats. The reality is that fares have not kept up with the cost of inflation since deregulation. That is one of the reasons why all of the legacy airlines have been into bankruptcy at least once if not twice.

    Before deregulation, the passengers were 1) business travelers; 2) rich people and 3) people who saved up money for their flights. If you want to have legroom; warm and free meals in economy; outstanding customer service and etc…then be willing to pay for it.

  • john4868

    Ultimately all of these suggestions would cost the airline money. Since none of them have historically made money (see Warren Buffet’s joke on how to become a millionaire in the airline business), they would drive fare increases and the flying public has historically shown that they only care about the cost of the fare. They will make a decision over $1.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Oh, don’t tempt me!

  • BillCCC

    The only way to motivate an airline (or any other business) is money. Consumers need to vote with their wallets.

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    And let’s not forget that when the airlines raise fares $40 each way to give Chris his minimum legroom, we will be hearing all kinds of whining from him and Charlie Leocha about the “windfall profits” that the airlines are enjoying on the backs of poor consumers.

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    Sorry, Chris, but if you want more legroom, seats are going to have to come off the plane, which means fewer paid passengers. Fewer paying passengers means higher fares for everyone left (it’s not a wild-eyed conspiracy – it’s simple math). If you’re willing to pay for that, then fine. If the result is going to be you and Charlie Leocha whining about having to pay an extra $40 or whatever to fly, then I think the complaint about legroom and seat width needs to stop.

  • john4868

    And how single, veteran parents on fixed incomes who are also seniors can no longer afford to fly to HI for their annual 3 week vacation. How mean are the airlines as a result…

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I wish you were with me yesterday evening in row 36 of the United Airlines 737 from Houston to Orlando. 31 inches of seat pitch. When the guy behind me reclined, it was more like 26. Sorry, but I don’t think you’d be singing the same free-market song this morning.

  • jsiess

    let’s go back to regulation! airlines were guaranteed a profit (albeit a small one), small cities were guaranteed service, we knew what the price would be (higher, but the same for all–less advertising required and airlines had to compete on–SERVICE).

  • john4868

    Ah ha … So you weren’t willing to pay for Economy Plus but want to institute a system where everyone is forced to pay? Why should I have to pay the extra amount if I don’t want the space?

  • SoBeSparky

    Take a dozen seats or more off an airplane and the cost is negligible? What was in the coffee this morning?

    Just let the marketplace customers speak with their pocketbooks. There is room in the marketplace for sardine-can seating plans and “main cabin extra” seating at the front of coach. Some board by first-come, first-served, some by reservation. All sorts of variations of customer comfort and amenities are available.

    Funny thing happened when American Airlines tried “More Room Through Coach” a decade ago. It did not attract enough additional business to pay for itself. That is not theoretical musing but empirical evidence.

    Re-regulating the airlines is fraught with dangers. Redesigning seats to meet some arbitrary federal measurements is typical big-government attitude with lots of unintended consequences. Shall we dictate foot-candles of light at each seat? Perhaps cubic feet per minute volume of individual air vents? Most of all, regulate arm rest width to allow for two elbows, not just one!

    As electronics are mandatory for a minimal lifestyle, all seats shall have AC electric and USB ports. Headrests shall be sanitized between flights or have fresh paper or linen on surfaces to prevent spread of critters. Blah, blah, blah.

    A whole new bureaucracy can inspect aircraft before each flight to make sure ever-more-obese Americans have enough room for their over-sized bodies.

    So far, the public has spoken loudly in favor of the cheapest possible fares. All other considerations have fallen far behind price considerations. Listen to the public rather than imposing one’s own perceptions on 300 million Americans.

    If you want a larger seat, you can buy it now, a la carte. If you want meals, you can always upgrade to first class. Options are there for most any level of comfort and space. Fact is, people rarely buy them. Jetliner seatmaps show all free seats filled and most paid preferential seats (including up-front, more-legroom seats) empty prior to seating control being passed to the airport and gate agents. People refuse to pay for them, in general.

    The financially successful Spirit Airlines, with below average customer satisfaction and 28″ seat pitch, consistently has made profits while other airlines were forced to merge or go into bankruptcy. The people have spoken in the free-marketplace: “Give me the cheapest seat possible, or I will not do business with you!”

    Why do people fear the freedoms of capitalism when proper anti-competitive protections are provided?

  • john4868

    @facebook-514977624:disqus The CATO institute would disagree with you (http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/1998/4/airline2-98.pdf ). When you read through here, you’ll find that most smaller markets gained not lost service over the last 30 years. Also, people currently complain about the high cost of air travel. How are they going to handle a 67+% increase in airfare (the referenced CATO report sites a 40% decrease in fares once adjusted for inflation as of 1997. I’m not sure what the amount would be 15 years late. 67% just increases them back to the 40% in 1997.) Reregulation isn’t the answer unless you want to return to the days of very few people being able to fly.

  • BobChi

    How would seat width and legroom standards “cost virtually nothing”? Whether it’s desirable or not, it would certainly cost plenty of money to implement in the first place, plus on an ongoing basis as fewer tickets could be sold.

  • BobChi

    No, no, a thousand times no! Prices adjusted for inflation are way below what they were under regulation and air travel is accessible to lots of people, not just the wealthy. Do not force everyone to pay much higher fares for your sake.

  • BobChi

    Precisely. These “consumer advocates” have a definite propensity to advocate for things that would benefit some consumers, in exchange for things that would adversely affect everyone – higher prices. If they think they could run an airline profitably incorporating all the practices they want to see imposed on the airlines, perhaps they should start one up.

  • BobChi

    That really is a sob story, needing to sit in a middle seat all the way from Pittsburgh to New York. Next we’ll learn she didn’t get any filet mignon on the flight.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    In reading through some of the comments here, it’s no wonder the airlines have been getting away with their unapologetically dismal treatment of us, their passengers. They do it because the flying public lets them in favor of rock bottom fares and a la carte services.

    Unless and until we, the public, demand better treatment, we’re not going to get it. I’d be perfectly fine with paying more for a ticket if it meant I didn’t have my knees around my ears when ever the person in front of me reclined. I’d also pay a little more if it meant I could check a bag, as it was in days gone by. I’d also pay a little more just for the feeling of NOT being nickeled and dimed to death just so I can get from point A to point B.

    As it is now, I feel as though I should just hand whomever my credit card when checking in for my flight and be done with it because it seems, more and more, the airlines are far more concerned with emptying my bank account than with providing a service for which I pay.

    Air travel doesn’t carry the respect it once carried and I have to wonder which came first, the airlines who couldn’t give a rat’s behind about their customers or was it the customers who demanded more and more of the airlines until they had no choice but to throw up their hands and treat us this way. (To paraphrase the “chicken or the egg conundrum”).

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Ah ha? Come on, I might have been unable to “upgrade” for any number of other reasons — full flight, traveling with my family, someone else was paying for it, alien invasion … whatever.

    You’re missing — or ignoring — the point, which is that no one should be allowed to wedge their passengers into such a tight space, no matter how much money they are, or aren’t, making.

    And Bob, maybe you should start advocating for consumers, because you seem to really know what’s best for all of us. I’ll be the first to link to your new customer advocacy site! ;-)

  • $16635417

    …with their emotional support dogs.

  • john4868

    Darn … I missed one!

  • mbods

    Clearly we customers are “the enemy”. It’s bad enough what we have to go through with the TSA only to be disrespected and treated rudely by airline personnel. BIG reasons why we now drive to wherever we have to go and vacation close to home…

  • john4868

    Actually Chris I think you are missing his point.
    1. You had the option to spend the money for the additional room when you purchased the ticket. If it was that important to you, you would have either spent the money to purchase the upgrade (regardless of who was paying the base fare) or found a different flight to purchase where you could get the upgrade.
    2. I’m sorry I missed the part of the story where you were lead to the aircraft and forced to board. In fact, you routinely talk about these issues so you, more than most people, knew what lay ahead and you still made the choice not to spend the money for more leg room that’s a personal choice. The airline didn’t force you to sit in that seat. You chose to purchase that seat.
    3. No comment on the rest. I admit to trying and failing at the advocacy business.

  • cjr001

    “Sorry, Chris, but if you want more legroom, seats are going to have to come off the plane”

    Funny how nobody mentions that new planes could actually be designed to *gasp* include more legroom and space for everybody.

  • James Orth

    Makes me so happy that I take amtrak sleeper car

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    When AA implemented “more room” program in economy class, it did so by tweaking its yield management algorithms, so that it wouldn’t cost the airline more to take out a row or two of seats. So yes, giving passengers a humane amount of legroom doesn’t have to cost anything extra. It’s just a question of being a little less greedy.

  • MarkKelling

    Or their emotional support pythons!

  • MarkKelling

    Even 1st class no longer guarantees a meal. And in some, you even have to pay for “premium” alcohol.

    Really the only reason to book 1st these days is for the larger seat.

  • SoBeSparky

    True. No guarantees.

    But you have the choice most times between one airline’s first class with a meal, and another airline’s first class without meals and premium beverages. Competition gives you that choice. It’s up to you what you receive on most well traveled routes. Consumers have the personal responsibility to examine their options.

  • Michael__K

    the flying public has historically shown that they only care about the cost of the fare.

    I disagree with that hypothesis. People will pay more when they see the value-proposition, whether the product is a toaster or a hotel room or a flight.

    People can and do pay a premium for direct flights and for schedule convenience, and the airfares prove it. Some people willingly pay a small premium if necessary to fly airlines like Southwest and Jet Blue.

    The problem is that while it’s easy to understand the value-proposition of the toaster with more features and a warranty, and it’s easy to understand the value-proposition of a Hilton over a Motel 6, and it’s easy to understand the value-proposition of a direct flight, it’s not so easy to explain why — even if scheduling and connections are the same — a US Airways fare that’s $5 cheaper than its competitors might actually be more expensive. To understand why, you have to dig into the minutiae of fare rules and contracts. And the carriers like US Airways are betting that by the time enough consumers either figure these things out (or their competitors are forced to copy them), they will have earned themselves a competitive advantage. And so continues the race towards the bottom…

  • DavidYoung2

    Exactly – we the customer demand the cheapest fare possible and, as you say, will rearrange our plans if we can save $20.00. When customers focus solely on price, why do they expect the airlines to focus on anything but costs?

  • Extra mail

    Do you not wonder about what seats are actually available on the flight? I flew ATL-MSY last week on delta and when I went to pick my seats two weeks before flying the only seats showing as available for selection were the premium seats I could have paid “extra.” But, when I boarded, there were plenty of available seats in the entire plane because the flight was not sold out. Did lots of folks cancel or was delta trying to make “extra” money by making me think that those were the only available seats?

  • BobChi

    Does that mean they charged more and people refused to pay it? I don’t see how you can get the same revenue selling fewer tickets, unless you increase the price of those you do sell. And the idea failed.

  • Andrew F

    What we need is greater transparency. Chris mentioned “DIY bundling”, but how about disclosing the seat pitch on the plane and, possibly, letting the passenger choose between 3 options? Personally, I’m fine with what the industry offers right now: I am average height and very slender. I don’t want to be on the hook for fare increases just because some big-and-tall guys want more room (sorry Chris :-). Sure, kick some seats off the plane, but leave most rows where they are now (31″ pitch); sell premium seats with 34″ pitch, and maybe super-premium with 40″.

    But once again, most importantly, DISCLOSE your seat pitch! Customers do pay more if they see what they are paying for!

  • bodega3

    I disagree. I can’t tell you how many people I have sold tickets to will add hours to their journey to save $20 and connect over taking a nonstop flight. I also have seen too many columns by Chris to believe that DIY’ers care about value, especially when it comes to a hotel. Price is their only care, until something goes wrong.

  • bodega3

    Sadly the airlines have dropped their service to caterer to this low denominator traveler. I have watched it happen for the 3 decades I have sold airline tickets.

  • $16635417

    I believe the percentage of empty seats in the industry was higher at the time and by marketing this, they could take out seats and sell the same number of seats with more legroom, but with the same number of passengers on the plane. As the industry evolved and loads went up, they needed the seats back to remain competitively priced.

    Interestingly, JetBlue used to have more seats on their Airbus. They realized than by taking seats out, they could reduce the number of flight attendants on board (by FAA regs, 1 per 50 pax) and create more legroom. So now they have 150 seats with ample legroom (34 inches or 38 if you pay the premium) and saved by not needing a 4th flight attendant. (Compared to Spirit who jam 174 seats in their A320 with a 28 inch pitch.)

  • Michael__K

    The Hiltons and the Motel 6’s of the world are both generally profitable.

    El Al, is (modestly) profitable, even though you can almost always find cheaper transatlantic options to TLV if you’re willing to put up with connections.

    The budget option will always appeal to some segment of consumers. Perhaps you’ve encountered a more than representative share of people from that segment.

  • bodega3

    All airlines only allow a certain amount of seats, based on type of fare being picked, to be preassigned on any flight and then the seat map will not show anything available. I had the same thing happen on my last flight to DEN. Even up until 24-48 hours prior, when the carriers will often release the seating, I couldn’t find anything. When we took off, the flight was no even close to being full.

  • john4868

    @Michael__K:disqus If that was truly correct, how did we get to the add-on fee mess that we’re in? If it was about value instead of price, people would have voted with their dollars for the airlines that weren’t moving to the al a carte model. Instead, every airline moved to it.

  • Michael__K

    If consumers don’t care about anything other than price, why do direct flights fill up when cheaper indirect options are available?

    Again, when consumers see a good value-proposition it will sell.

    When the value-proposition is hard to explain and few consumers understand it, then it just takes one business to exploit that ignorance for their competitive advantage. And then competitors have to either copy those practices, cede the competitive advantage, or educate their customers.

  • emanon256

    Funny how Boeing recommended the 787 be configures with 8 seats across in economy for maximum comfort, yet the New United put 9 seats across. I think the planes can provide more room, but the airlines choose seats that provide for more passengers and less room.

  • emanon256

    Whenever I book on F9, if I choose the cheapest fare, there are very few open seats in the back and I can’t pick a premium seat without paying extra, if I choose the medium fare, there are more seats, and if I choose the expensive fare, suddenly almost every seat is open. The funny thing is, if I choose the cheap fare I have to pay extra for a premium seat, and don’t see many or any regular seats. The premium seat comes free with the expensive fare.

  • SoBeSparky

    Passengers first select the free seats. They are unwilling to pay for premium location or extra legroom. So yes, all the free seats were gone when you looked at the seat map, as others already had grabbed those seats, people who had that capability.

    Two weeks out, that’s about right, no free seats left. So all they show you are the premium seats for sale, or you play the lottery of what theyt assign you on the day of the flight. In your case, you waited and probably got a premium seat for free. Happens a lot because elite flyers and premium seat buyers rarely fill the best seats before the day of the flight.

    If those extra legroom seats are still open when they close the cabin door, go and take one. Rarely does anyone object to shifting seats in the same class of cabin after the door is shut and before the plane leaves the gate position.

  • bodega3

    Don’t forget that those nonstop flights might be a connecting flight from somewhere else. Price is king for the average traveler. Those who travel a lot know that price isn’t the main reason to pick a flight.

  • bodega3

    Most shopper are buget minded, even the hig end ones. But if they have traveled enough, after looking at their options, they usually pick the nonstops. Interesting though, at one agency I use to work with, we handled the travel for a very famous US doctor who had several TV shows and he would always do the connecting flights to save $25 when he was traveling on his dime.

  • cjr001

    There is that, too.

    In the end, the airlines just don’t care to improve customer service.

  • john4868

    Yea … and the original 747 marketing collateral had airborne lounges as part of the experience. When was the last time you saw that. Sorry flying an airplane from A to B is essentially a fixed cost. Airlines are going to attempt to maximize their revenue from that expense so they can either sell more seats at a low price or fewer seats at a higher price. Given the discussion going on in this thread, few Americans make the choice to spend the extra money for the better experience so the airline will chose more seats.

  • technomage1

    I don’t disagree, but legroom is one area I think there ought to be a regulated minimum. You can’t control your height. If that means the cost of the ticket goes up, I’m comfortable with that.

  • TonyA_says

    Greetings from Sapporo, Hokkaido friends.
    I have flown both JAL and ANA domestic flights inside Japan on 737s.
    The only sardines they have here in Japan is the one you can eat. My beer belly and old knees have not complained about coach seating at all.
    Once I get a chance I will compare the cents per mile cost of a similar stateside route.
    Meanwhile, I am off to a ski resort accompanying 2 busloads of passengers.
    Yes, we Americans do not fly as comfortable as the Japanese. Something needs to be done.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    here we go again. Can we please get off the compensation bandwagon !!!

    Compensation means higher fares & nobody wants that.

    With all the mergers fares are going up & the last thing anyone wants is a “fee” for contingency costs for compensation.

    AMericans have got to get off this idea, that if everything doesn’t go exactly to plan, I should be somehow compensated.
    What a stupid notion. No wonder the U.S. is going down the toilet.

  • $16635417

    Prior to 2001, loyalty programs and schedule were the most important factors in choosing a flight. Today, it’s price ahead of safety, schedule, nonstops and all other factors. (according to the folks at Wharton)

  • Michael__K

    Google didn’t turn up anything when I searched for that (although I did learn that the late Vice Chairman of AA was a Wharton grad). Do you have a link?

    If a study shows that consumers became more price conscious with the rise of OTA’s (and the decline of loyalty programs), that would hardly be surprising.

    It’s ultimately not an either/or question but a question of HOW MUCH consumers are willing to pay for each convenience (seat pitch, schedule, non-stops, etc.). Safety ought to be a non-issue if there’s strong FAA oversight — it shouldn’t be what airlines are competing on other than to make darn certain they don’t commit any violations.

  • $16635417

    Actually, safety is the biggest factor for business travelers according to this survey. It’s about 7 years old, I have not seen any updates to it recently.

    Keep in mind the wording…it’s not that consumers “don’t care about anything but price”, it’s that price is the main factor when selecting a flight (for leisure).


    Page 10 shows the least important attributes when selecting a flight and the airlines have responded by not playing those up.

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    The way I remember it (though this was ages ago, and I was still in college so didn’t fly much at the time), AA reduced the number of el cheapo fares available on any given flight. If a flight today from DFW-LAX has 10 seats available at the lowest fare of $295 apiece, during the “More Room Throughout Coach” days, only 6 seats would be available (these aren’t real numbers – I’m making these up just for the sake of argument). You could theoretically fly for the same price as other carriers, but with less inventory, chances are you would be paying more to fly AA than a competitor.

    The program was rather unceremoniously dismantled a short time after it started. It ultimately failed because the public wasn’t willing to pay for the so-called premium experience – even though you had more legroom, it was still the same old AA, which is to say, no different than anyone else at the time.

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    I don’t doubt that was uncomfortable. For the record, I have flown in seats with even less pitch on discount carriers in India. However, you completely ignored the point I was trying to make

    Don’t think 31 inch pitch is humane treatment? Fine. I can re-configure your airplane so that everyone has a minimum of 34 or whatever. Bottom line is unless you can magically make the aircraft longer, you will be removing a row or two of seats. Same total revenue / fewer seats = higher average fare per passenger. Ditto for the one checked bag and guarantee seating at the front of the plane together for you and your family that you and Charlie also want to mandate. And you didn’t answer my question – are you willing to pay that higher average fare?

  • Michael__K

    The presentation is 7 years old; the survey data is actually pre-9/11. (“Efficiency of airline security checks” is one of the attributes).

    Even if you take the 12+ year old survey data at face value, it doesn’t demonstrate that customers have gotten exactly what they wanted. “Customer service” was rated a “key attribute.” And if you ignore the arbitrary dividing line between key attributes and lesser attributes, “Ability to change or cancel plans without penalty” was relatively important (moreso than legroom, or loyalty programs).

  • Nigel Appleby

    A year ago we were flying SFO to YVR on United and had paid for the extra legroom. The flight was a third to half full. When the door was closed the flight attendant got on the PA and said ” the people in the seats with extra legroom have paid the extra price, so when you move after take off do not move into those seats.” So some people do care, and as someone who had paid I appreciated the comment of the FA.

    As I have long legs and bad knees I will pay to get the extra legroom although we can’t ususally afford to pay for business or first class, unfortunately.

  • Helio

    “1. Implement minimum seat width and legroom standards. (…). Even dogs have it better when they fly. ”

    Chris, I’m pretty sure you know that sending a small pet in the cargo bay may cost much more than an economy seat in the plane… ;-)

  • BMG4ME

    My wishes are more simple – for example let’s have a consistent time for asking us when to prepare for landing. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes before landing, sometimes it’s 5. Given that there is no evidence that electronics pose a risk during landing it’s really irritating to hear a second announcement 15 minutes after the first telling you it’s time to switch off.

  • AHH

    My simple wish is that they enforce the rule about not selling more booze to passengers who are already intoxicated. I’ve had a couple of flights recently rendered pretty unpleasant by boisterous drunks nearby. And the flight attendants (once this was on Delta, once on Frontier) were more than happy to sell them all the booze they wanted to buy. Of course this is not just an issue for comfort of nearby passengers; it is also a safety issue. I have never in my 30 years of flying seen a flight attendant refuse to serve an intoxicated passenger.