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sep 05

Our readers tell off the airlines

We recently asked readers of this blog: "Which airline do you refuse to fly, and why?" We received about 40 responses. Nearly every airline got zinged. (Click here to join the fracas.)

The top gripe? Rude airline employees.

Roughly half of the 40 readers cited rudeness by flight attendants and gate agents as something that would cause them never to fly an airline again.

In other words, these travelers would rather pay more to fly another airline than give business to an airline that has treated them rudely. Yes, they may be willing to skimp on other services in exchange for a cheaper fare, but rudeness is intolerable.

This is not a breakthrough revelation, of course. Other more comprehensive and scientific surveys of customer satisfaction have no doubt found the same result. You might think that the airlines would respond to such complaints by setting up systems for 1) collecting data from passengers about any incidents in which they felt they were rudely treated; 2) if there are a lot of complaints about a particular flight, identifying which flight crew or gate agents were serving that flight; 3) rewarding employees who receive favorable comments and insisting on re-training for employees who are criticized by passengers. After all, the airlines track data on everything else. Why not track data on this major customer concern?

A second major issue among our readers is a repeated failure by airline staff to communicate accurate information to passengers when a problem (such as a flight delay) happens.

Misinformation compounded with more misinformation will sometimes make passengers mad enough that they're ready to break some furniture. Consider the following story from a reader:

I refuse to fly Alitalia - It's too bad the national airline of Italy is such a disgrace. My parents were stuck in Milan for 3 days because the flight crew just didn't show up for the Pisa - Milan flight. There was a near-riot in the Milan airport as security was called in to control the crowds. The most angry travelers? The Italians! We saw a man reach across the desk of an Alitalia employee and throw a monitor across the floor.--Laura Beckett

Perhaps the most poignant story from our readers was this one:

I refuse to ever fly Northwest again. I got news that my grandmother was dying in Athens,Greece and I rushed to find ANY ticket I could in order to see her in her last moments. My flight was supposed to leave Newark at 6:00pm on Wednesday. Once at the gate, we were told there was a slight delay until finally at 10pm we were told that the plane "broke" and a crew was being flown in from Detroit to "fix" the plane. Supposedly we would be leaving at 6am the next morning. We finally left at noon the next day and flew into Amsterdam, which was part of my original itinerary in order to change planes and fly onto Athens. We landed in Amsterdam at 11:00pm Thursday night and it was too late for a flight onto Athens so we were put up in a hotel until the next morning. I made it to the airport by shuttle the next morning, where I was told that all flights to Athens on the plane I was supposed to take, were booked. I ended up in Paris. I finally ended up in Athens on Friday evening which by then it was too late to see my Grandmother. I will never ever fly Northwest again.--Posted by: Marina

See the full list of comments--and feel free to post your own.

Update: Our most popular blog posts lately.

Photo by Benoutram. Find their portfolio at Flickr.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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