Is your airline a dog?

If you think your favorite airline has gone to the dogs, you may be right. USA Today's Bill McGee points out that data from the Department of Transportation (DOT) indicates that airline customer service declined in almost every category last year.

I've already told you about the staggering increase in mishandled baggage last year, and you know from another recent post that things are likely to get much worse this summer before they get better. But there's more, too.

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  • Late arrivals for domestic flights went up year over year.
  • Consumer complaints spiked upward (and those are just the ones that were actually filed, never mind the grumbling we all do every time we're at the airport without actually reporting it to the DOT).
  • More passengers were bumped from flights due to overbookings last year than in 2004.

McGee draws a straight line between the decline in customer care and the rampant cost-cutting most airlines are guilty of these days. "There's a direct link between poor service and outsourcing everything from baggage handling to reservations," he writes. "That means it won't be getting better in the foreseeable future."

There's probably more to it than just outsourcing, though. Labor relations on some of the major carriers haven't exactly been all sunshine and roses lately, and unhappy employees usually aren't the most motivated ones. Whatever the cause, on this point McGee and I do agree: Good customer service from the airlines seems to be the exception instead of the rule these days.

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