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April 03, 2001 - Image 6

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-04-03

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6 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 3, 2001

NATION/WORLD

Airlines fail to improve service, study shows

Passengers bumped, per 10.000
1999 0.88
Mishandled bags, per 1,000

I1I

WASHINGTON (AP) - Airline flights arrived
behind schedule more often and more passengers
complained about service despite industry promis-
es to improve, a new study says.
An annual review of airline quality conducted by
two university professors also found more passen-
gers bumped from overcrowded flights and more
mishandled checked baggage.
"The airlines promised to do better. Things got
worse. That's not encouraging," said report co-
author Dean Headley, associate professor of mar-
keting at Wichita State University.
Based on data collected by the Transportation
Department, the report found that last year:
Flights of 10 major carriers were on time 72.6
percent of the time, down from 76.1 percent in
1999.
The Transportation Department received 2.98
complaints for every 100,000 passengers. a 20 per-
cent increase over the 2.48 in 1999.
For every 1.000 bags checked. airlines mis-
handled or lost 5.29. up from 5.08 in 1999.
The rate of passengers being bumped against

their wishes rose from 0.88 per 10.000 in 1999 to
1.04.
Delta won the highest rating for passenger ser-
vice among major airlines. followed by Alaska and
Southwest. America West received the lowest rank-
ing. In 1999, Southwest was the highest-ranked air-
line and United was the lowest, with Delta third
from the top. United was ranked next to last this
year.
"We're obviously pleased to be recognized,,,
Delta spokesman John Kennedy said. "It acknowl-
edges Delta's improvement in customer service.
What we're doing ... is to focus our efforts on cus-
tomers* needs in these critical service areas."
America West spokeswoman Patty Nowack said
the airline has dramatically improved service since
the end of 2000.
"If the study was conducted in the first quarter of
2001, you would see America West's performance
going against the trend." Nowack said. "We've
improved our on-time performance. have less mis-
handled bags and fewer customer cotfplaints."
When Congress was considering legislation in

1999, the airlines and the Transportation Depart-
ment instead agreed on a package of voluntary
standards. The department s inspector general
reported in February that customer service had
improved but still had a long way to go.
The Senate Commerce Committee approved a
bill this year to make the airlines' voluntary con-
stimer guidelines a legal contract with passengers:
require airlines to disclose on-time performance of
flights when customers buy tickets or make reser-
vations; and require the industry to establish a
timetable for reducing the number of flights
delayed at least 30 minutes. Legislation also has
been introduced in the House.
The professors said they believed Congress ulti-
mately would pass some iegislation to help airline
passengers.
"We cannot see many years of continuous airline
quality diminishing without some sort of regulato-
ry action." said the report s other co-author. Brent
Bowen. director of the aviation institute at the Uni-
versity of Nebraska at Omaha.
Airline industry officials noted that the inspector

general in his February report cited substantial
improvements in customer service.
"To ignore the positive steps that have been
taken is simply disingenuous and misleading to the
public." said Michael Wascorm. a spokesman for
the Air Transport Association. the trade group for
the major airlines. "No one can argue that we are
not fulfilling otir commitments."
In addition, airline industry officials are expected
to announce this week that voluntary service com-
mitments will become part of the legal contract
with passengers beginning May 1; and a new task
force of airline, airport and Federal Aviation
Administration representatives has been set up to
develop ways of providing timely and accurate
information about delays and cancellations to pas-
sengers.
Industry officials have blamed the problem
largely on an air traffic system inadequate to handle
the sharp growth in airline traffic. The number of
passengers on U.S. airlines rose from 600 million
in 1995 to 733 million in 2000. the Federal Avia-
tion Administration says.

1999

5.08
ent*

On-time flights, by perc

1999

76.1

Quality of passenger service,
by airline
2000 1999 1998
Rank/airline rank rank

1. Delta
2. Alaska
3. Southwest
4. US Airways
5 Northwest
6 American
7 Continenta
8. TWA
9. United
10. America West
'Of the 10 maor carriers

3
5
i4
6
4
7
9
10
8

4
8
5
a
9
3
2
7
10
6

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