“Middle Seat” Airline Scorecard

DOT Denies Airline Rule Delay Petition

Flyers Rights Education Fund Offer Extended

What Kate’s Saying

WSJ “Middle Seat” Blog Airline Scorecard

Scott McCartney, the Wall Street Journal’s “Middle Seat” blogger, has released his 2011 Middle Seat Scorecard, rating the major airlines on their performance in key areas of service.

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Airline

On-Time

Cancelled Flights

Baggage Handling

Bumping Passengers

Customer Complaints

Average Rank

Alaska

1

1

5

5

2

2.8

AirTran

3

4

1

2

3

2.6

Southwest

6

2

6

7

1

4.4

JetBlue

9

8

2

1

4

4.8

US Airways

4

5

3

8

7

5.4

Continental

5

3

4

9

6

5.4

United

2

6

7

6

8

5.8

American

7

7

9

4

5

Delta

8

9

8

3

9

7.4

Scott makes some interesting points in his article. He notes that:

  • Alaska Airlines and AirTran Airways had the highest on-time rates and generally lower rates of lost bags, cancellations, and passengers bumped from oversold flights and complaints.
  • Large size can bog down airline operations. Scheduling complexities, increased exposure to weather events, and more connecting flights combine to increase problem possibilities.
  • Variables increase as hub size increases, and problems multiply.
  • For the industry, complaints and cancellations were up sharply last year.

The Journal also published a nice interactive graphic that lets you sort the data in different ways.

SWA LogoOne takeaway from this year’s Scorecard is the cautionary tale of Southwest’s acquisition of AirTran. One reason Southwest gave for the merger was toexpand their route map. In particular, they gained Atlanta routes and gates. That’s a significant departure from Southwest’s previous operating model, where they used airports that were alternatives to the major hubs-Midway instead of O’Hare, for example-to avoid the built-in complications of the larger airports. This acquisition lands them squarely in the middle of the very problem they avoided for years.

We can only wait to see how this works out for Southwest, one of our favorite airlines. It’s interesting to note that in spite of their rating drops in some areas this year, they still garnered the Number Three spot overall, mostly because of their very low number of customer complaints.

DOT Denies Airlines’ Plea to Delay Rules

Last year’s Department of Transportation (DOT) rulemaking provided a long list of new airline passenger protections that were scheduled to go into effect August 2011. However, the DOT delayed implementation of some of the rulemaking’s provisions until January, 2012. Delayed provisions included:

  • Requiring all taxes and fees to be included in advertised fares.
  • Banning post-purchase price increases.
  • Allowing passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.
  • Requiring disclosure of baggage fees when passengers book a flight.
  • Requiring that the same baggage allowances and fees apply throughout a passenger’s journey.
  • Requiring disclosure of baggage fee information on e-ticket confirmations.
  • Requiring prompt notification of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions.

The airlines, through their many lobbying organizations, protested the entire rulemaking, and specifically petitioned for further delay of the provisions requiring:

  • Disclosure of baggage allowances and fees on e-ticket confirmations.
  • The same baggage allowances and fees at the start of a trip apply throughout the entire itinerary.

The airlines pointed out a number of technical difficulties with those two provisions, especially when the itinerary involves flights operated by separate airlines or smaller airlines under contract to the primary carrier, called interline and code-share segments.

On January 6, 2012, the DOT denied the airlines’ petition, sayingCarriers haveDOT Logoknown of the requirements since April 2011 and have already received a five-month extension. Consumers will continue to be confused about their baggage fees until the carriers comply with these new bag rules.” They also pointed out that the rules won’t be a problem for flights operated entirely by one airline.

Acknowledging the challenges of disclosing the information for interline or code-share itineraries, the DOT announced they will not strictly enforce those two provisions for “certain interline and code-share itineraries.” However, they do expect carriers to disclose possible additional fees on e-ticket confirmations and provide web links to that information. They also expect carriers to reimburse anyone who was not charged the same baggage fees throughout an itinerary if that resulted in the passenger being overcharged.

Flyers Rights Education Fund Offer Extended

Flyers Rights Education Fund board member Paul Hudson and the friends ofFREF LogoRalph Nader have extended until the end of January their offer to match your donations, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $15,000. We’re approaching that goal, but we need your help to take full advantage of this gracious offer.

Please take a moment to visit the Flyers Rights Education Fund donation pageand take us another step closer to our goal.

What Kate’s Saying

NPR All Things Considered

This is a great summary of the DOT rules going into effect this month, featuring Kate’s comments. Both print and audio.

New Rules Mean Full Disclosure For Airfares

KDFW News

Another look at the new rules.

http://www.myfoxdfw.com/dpp/news/consumer/new-rules-mean-airfare-price-changes-010312

SmarterTravel.com

A thumbs-up review of our FlyersRights iPhone app. If you iPhone users don’t have this app, go to our web site and get it!

http://www.smartertravel.com/blogs/today-in-travel/apps-the-airlines-don-want-you-to-use.html?id=10079645

ThinkProgress.org

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/01/04/397425/obama-airline-rules/?mobile=nc

Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-petrow/airplane-porn_b_1180989.html


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