Our heartfelt thanks to blogging pal Doug Hagin over at The Daley Gator and to Watcher of Weasels for the pingbacks; thanks also (as always) to The Other McCain and Pirate’s Cove for the rule five links!
This seems to be a rather appropriate story for a Monday morning when, like so many other Monday mornings, I’m bound for the airport: People Are Happier Than Ever With Airline Service. Excerpt:
J.D. Power, a top market research company well-known for tracking customer satisfaction, released a survey last week that found “customer satisfaction with airlines has reached its highest level ever, continuing a trend that now stretches five consecutive years.”
How could that possibly be, given the United Airlines (UAL) passenger dragged off a plane, the traveler nearly hit with a stroller on an American Airlines (AAL) plane, a California family thrown off a Delta (DAL) flight, a brawl at a Spirit Airlines (SAVE) counter, and several other recent incidents?
It turns out that those horror stories are more like shark attacks than bee stings — rare events that capture a huge amount of publicity because they are rare.
That hasn’t stopped some from using these anecdotes to depict the entire industry as indifferent, if not openly hostile, to the needs of their passengers.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that the “degrading treatment” of the United passenger “is the latest example of a major U.S. airline disrespecting passengers and denying them their basic rights.”
USA Today recently asked: “Can air travel get any more miserable than it already is?” to which it answered “yes.”
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank described the industry this way: “packed cabins; tiny seats; proliferating fees for food, bags and flight changes; boarding delays; higher fares; labyrinthine contracts; and routine overbooking.”
There’s a reason for this: Democrats, and most reporters, like government regulation and think the airlines need more of it. So every time something bad happens, they use it as the latest evidence that the government should step in.
Bear in mind here that the calls for more airline regulation aren’t just coming from Democrats or the political Left in general. Republicans have been threatening the airlines with the heavy hand of government regulation as well. And the GOP is (supposedly) the party of smaller government and less intrusive regulation, right?
I can and will only speak for myself in this matter as in many others, an act of circumspection that I wish many reporters and commentators would try to emulate; however, my experience with air travel has been pretty positive. There are a few folks that fly more than me, and a hell of a lot of folks that fly less, and I’m overall pretty pleased with air travel and with my airline of choice, the oft-maligned of late United.
The problem with a lot of the reaction on this is that too many folks are apt to make judgements based on insufficient data. Just as I have a preferred airline, I also have a preferred brand of automobiles; for forty-some years now I have been buying and driving Fords, and I’m pretty happy with them. But I would love to have a sawbuck for every time someone has told me how they once had a 1974 Pinto that was a lemon, and so they’ll never own a Ford again.
The same thing applies here. Stories of horrible customer service by the airlines are big news precisely because they are rare; the airlines service tens of millions of customers a year, and their overall track record is damn good. Never in the history of aviation has air travel been so cheap, so convenient, so available to the general public.
This is a case where a little perspective is in order.