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March 13, 1997 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-03-13

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8A -The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 13, 1997


Passengers give airlines bumpy reviews

L os Angeles 'fmnic
Last year, as you may have heard,
was a good year for the United States'
passenger airlines. Industry figures
show they filled 69.8 percent of their
seats, up from 67.3 percent in the very
profitable year before. They boosted the
number of miles flown by paying pas-
sengers by 6.7 percent (to 548.9 bil-
lion). And they made billions in profits.
But by several other measures, 1996
was a bad year indeed for those same
airlines, and some would say worse for
the consumers they carried. A recent
release of statistics from the U.S.
I ransportation Department shows that
tardy arrivals and cancellations
increased from the year before. Also,
crews mishandled more pieces of bag-

gage. More passengers were involun-
tarily bumped from flights. And, not
surprisingly in light of all that, passen-
ger complaints to federal officials
leaped by nearly 18 percent.
In other words, by every measure
federal officials use to assess airline
passenger service, 1996 was a letdown.
Or, to express the equation in yet anoth-
er way: quantity up, quality down.
Here are some figures and rankings,
all based on domestic flights by the 10
largest U.S. carriers,
On-time arrivals: An on-time
flight, by industry definition, is one that
arrives within 15 minutes of its sched-
uled time. These numbers include
weather-related delays and since
January 1995 also have included delays

attributed to mechanical reasons. The
10 largest U.S. carriers together were on
time with 74.5 percent of flights in
1996, down from 78.6 percent the pre-
vious year. Southwest Airlines posted
an on-time mark of 81.8 percent, fol-
lowed by Continental and Northwest, at
76.5 percent. The most habitually late
major carrier: Trans World Airlines with
a 68.5-percent on-time rate.
® Mishandled baggage: Drawn
from reports filed by passengers
when their luggage fails to turn up on
the right airport carousel at the right
time, these figures show that your
odds of having a bag mishandled by a
major U.S. carrier last year were 5.30
in 1,000. (In 1995 the number was
5.18). ,

Overbooking: When airlines sell
more tickets than they have seats, thev
even the numbers out by "bumping"'
passengers, sometimes on a volunteer
basis, sometimes involuntarily. In the
government tally of involuntary bumps
over the first nine months of 1996
(numbers are not yet in on the last three
months), the most unreliable major car-
rier was Southwest. In nine months,
Southwest crews bumped 9,455 passen-
gers, or 2.30 for every 10,000 to board.
That rate was more than twice the 1996
average of 1.06 bumps per 10,000, and
far exceeded leading performers
Continental (0.18 per 10,000) and
Northwest and American (both 0.54 per
10,000). The majors' 1995 rate of invol-
untary bumps was 1.03 per 10,000.

U Complaints: The most common
causes of passenger complaints overall
were flight delays, cancellations and
missed connections, followed by bag-
gage troubles and customer service
Altogether. major carriers got
7,105 service complaints last year
(0.74 per 100,000 passengers), up
from 1995's total of 6,025. Southwest
prompted the fewest complaints, a
remarkably low 117 among 56.5 mil-
lion passengers for a rate of 0.21
complaints per 10,000 passengers.
Runners-up were Alaska (0.51 per
10,000) and Continental (0.58 per
10,000). The most common target of
complaints: TWA, at 1.25 per


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Scottish scientist who cloned an adult
sheep told Congress yesterday "it
would be quite inhumane" to try the
technology on people. A senator told
him and a rapt hearing audience that
human cloning is sure to come "and I
don't fear it at all.
It is wrong and "demeaning to
human nature" for government to try to
stop or limit human cloning experi-
ments, said Sen. Tom Harkin, (Dl-
"Human cloning will take place and
it will take place within my lifetime,"
he said. "I think it is right and proper...
It holds untold benefits for humankind
in the future."
Harkin, who lost two sisters to can-
cer, has been one of the strongest sup-
porters on Capitol Hill of medical
research. The senator was instrumental
in starting a new Office of Aternativ
Medicine at the National Institutes ei
Health and is co-author of a plan to
increase NIH funding this year by $5
Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in
Edinburgh, Scotland, said that since the
world learned he and colleagues had
cloned an adult sheep named Dolly,
there has been an explosion of specula-
tion about cloning of humans.
But Wilmut said human cloning is
not practical, possible or ethical*
"Similar experiments with humans
would be totally unacceptable," he
"I don't see any reason why we
would want to copy a person," said the
scientist. "I personally have still not
heard of a potential use of this tech-
nique to produce a new person-that I
would find ethical or acceptable."
It took 277 attempts to produce
Dolly, said Wilmut, and some of th4
failures resulted in defective lambs that
died quickly after birth.
"It would be quite inhumane to con-
template using these techniques at this
stage, he said.
Though he agreed with Harkin that
"it is not possible nor even desirable to
attempt to regulate the way that scienec
progresses," Wilmut said legislators
should address "the question of the
individuals who will be involved, th*
children who would be involved."
Harkin, in a short. speech that
dropped the entire Senate hearing room
into attentive silence, said governments
should not try to slow the march of sci-
ence, even for a technology as ethically
troubling as human cloning.
He said it was wrong for President
Clinton to issue an order to stop all fed-
erally funded human embryo research
and for Sen. Christopher Bond, (R*
Mo.), to propose legislation to make
the research ban permanent.
He compared these government
efforts to the 17th century punishment
of the astronomer Galileo, who
advanced Copernicus' theory that the
Earth orbits the sun, instead of the
other way around.
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