Customer service a lot less friendly in the skies

midtownAccording to US News and World Report Travel, Atlanta-based Delta Airlines scored the worst of major airlines with the dubious honor of ranking first in delays. It had the largest drop in customer satisfaction in a twelve-month period when only 78 percent of their flights arrived on time. Trailing with similar complaints were United, Alaska Airlines, American, and US Airway.

The annual poll entitled Airline Quality Rating Report is compiled by joint professors at Wichita State University and Purdue University and uses “subjective surveys of consumer opinion that are infrequently done with the goal of creating a rating for individual airlines with interval scale properties that is comparable across airlines and across time.”

So besides travelers having to wait on long security lines and enduring inadequate parking facilities, customers frequently are at their wit’s end even before the wheels of the plane touch away from the airport runway. Other lodged complaints compiled were mishandled baggage, delays, and involuntary denied boarding. There was also a general dissatisfaction with substandard meals, rude flight attendants, and baggage fees.

Now we all know that airlines are our favorite subjects when it comes to consumer complaints and lack of customer service along with banks, cell phone providers, and internet companies, but the lack of communication and listening to their customers are the one constant complaint for all of the organizations. On Friday, a lonely Twitter entry stated, “Delta is improving” and linked to a list of awards the airline has won dating back to 2007.

So what’s a consumer to do? Well, we all could take the bus, leave our luggage at home, just use a carry-on, and brown bag our own food, or airlines could start paying attention to consumer opinions. Understandably airlines can be constrained by  federal regulations, weather conditions and security controls, but that doesn’t mean customer service has to be so poor. When airline reports emerge titled, “America’s Meanest Airlines” surely it is time for the companies to listen hard and look at their operation and employees.

Airline employees need more training; it’s as simple as that. Statistically consumers find employee rudeness to be one of the most obvious reasons they will no longer deal with a company. Ground personnel and flight attendants have to be able to deal with the public and remain professional and polite in all circumstances. If an airline is known for its terrible food, isn’t it time the company sat down in a passenger seat and actually tried and tasted the food themselves to put themselves in the place of the passenger? Bad tasting food is pretty universal. And as to one’s baggage not making it to the proper destination? That’s completely controllable also. Why not train baggage carriers to do their jobs better? Again, customer service training is the key.

I know from personal experience, if I had to hurry through the airport, dread the security lines and procedures, but finally made it to my assigned flight, could check my one bag for no additional fee, didn’t have to pay extra to sit in an aisle seat, and I could enjoy a decent snack, a legitimate weather delay wouldn’t irritate me half as much.

photo credit: SpecialKRB