Airlines snow storm or snow job?

Snow Storm Feb 2010 (#4)Can you even imagine waiting all year for a great holiday weekend, and then getting stranded at an airport not just for hours, but two or three days? Travelers are blaming the airlines for not being prepared.

The airlines have always used weather conditions as their fall back , but consumer advocates state that they should have been prepared. Thousands of stranded passengers couldn’t get through to reservation agents to rebook their flights. Even more passengers who were languishing in the airports for days couldn’t get any current information from airline employees. People found more information when they called their home town travel agents than at the airport.

Brandon Macsata, a spokesperson for the Association for Airline Passenger Rights had this to comment;

“The airlines just seem to be saying, ‘suck it up.’ People are tired of sucking it up.”

Passengers were left on hold for hours or told to call back. Some passengers complained when they finally did get through the customer service agents were rude and inconsiderate.

So let us examine what happened and why the airlines really need to start thinking about their passengers and less about their profits. Continental cut 600 call center jobs out of 2600 jobs earlier this year. They then closed their Florida call center which eliminated another 500 jobs. American Airlines cut 500 jobs in their Connecticut center, and United Airlines cut 5000 customer service jobs. At one time United had 17 reservation offices; now they have only 3 left. So here’s the problem. The staff was allegedly cut because more passengers were booking their reservations online, but if someone wanted to call and speak to a live agent, there was an additional booking fee! Hardly seems fair does it?

The state of the economy has resulted in fewer fights and less planes, but the airlines are raking in the profits. US Airways did impose mandatory overtime for their customer service employees to handle the extra calls, but what about the other airlines? It is estimated there were 9,400 flights canceled since Saturday, and one million passengers affected by poor customer service. We know it’s not their fault that it snowed, but it is their fault that so many people have to be continually taken in by their snow job!

photo credit: jfinnirwin