Customer complaints to be addressed by airlines

New travel regulations formulated by the Department of Transportation become effective tomorrow on April 29th and will help US airlines better serve travelers. According to the Better Business Bureau, complaints have increased by 170% in the last five years concerning delayed and canceled flights, lost baggage and being stranded on the ground.

Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections” describes the new rules and is designed to bring some consumer satisfaction from an industry that has consistently ignored the very basics of customer service. Customers can look forward to such new services as:

  • Dealing with customer complaints. Airlines are required to acknowledge customer complaints within 30 days and address the complaint within 60 days. This is still a long time to wait for a response, but it sure beats the previous record of never hearing from anyone.
  • Late take-offs. The DOT will now be allowed to penalize airlines on domestic flights if they are more than 30 minutes late on at least 1/2 of their trips each month for four months in a row. It isn’t a “given” that your flights will leave on time, but at least it whips up an inkling of transparency for the airlines.
  • Tarmac delays. Airlines must provide adequate food and water to passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed. Bathrooms must be made available and operable. If the delay is more than three hours on the tarmac, the aircraft must return to the gate and allow the passengers to de-plane as long as it is safe and causes no airport disruption issues.
  • Website clarity. Each airline is required to display flight delay information for each domestic flight. This requirement might be extended for a period of time to allow airline companies to upgrade their computer capabilities, however it will be nice not to play the “delay” guessing game anymore.
  • Rights. The airline company must display a customer service plan as recommended by the DOT which clearly outlines the company’s policy for such services relating to over booking, baggage handling, customer compliance and other issues that might apply to passengers.

It’s hard to believe that the airline industry had to put up such a fuss just to give consumers back a bit of their dignity; let’s hope it works.

photo credit: AchimH

One Response to “Customer complaints to be addressed by airlines”

  1. Dharini said:

    May 07, 10 at 5:56 am

    I wonder if the gap between the brand promise of airlines and the customer experience level is widening. The technology used in this industry is highly sophisticated but when it comes to customer service, technology doesn’t seem to be of much help. So the question that should be answered by the airline industry is “we know our technology, but do we know our customers?”