Higher prices, diminished customer service: We hate to fly and it shows

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Dollar bills on a line (Photo: Index Open)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on December 10, 2007. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, American, Continental, frequent flyer, fuel, JetBlue, Korean Air, legroom, low-cost airline, Midwest Airlines, Molly Feltner, onboard flight entertainment, security, Southwest.

Higher cost...

Stories about fare increases came one right after the other this year. According to industry experts, those price hikes are sticking thanks in part to soaring fuel prices, record demand from travelers, and airline schedule cutbacks.

Those cost increases were reflected in our survey: The majority of you thought that it was harder to find affordable fares this year and that nickel-and-diming for extras had increased. Forty-nine percent said it was harder to find flights at good prices in 2007, compared to those who thought it was about the same (40%) as in 2006 or better (11%). The majority of you (57%) felt that extra fees for onboard food, drinks, and entertainment were more common this year. Here's what some of you had to say:

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    "I have decided airfare is too expensive for me, so will not be flying anytime soon."

    "Prices are too high even when fares are purchased far in advance."

    "The major airlines should be ashamed to fly cross-country and not offer meal service in coach."

    "Airfare has gone up in the guise of fuel surcharges. Bring down fuel prices!"

    "More items are being charged for and it seems ridiculous—$5 for a salad, $20 to $50 [extra for an exit row] seat that is still in coach."

...Diminished value

Based on a significant number of comments, price alone wasn't your biggest pet peeve—it was decreased value for your money. As airfare prices increased this year, many of you saw considerable erosion in customer service. Some of you swore off flying after a bad experience this year, and several respondents thought passengers ought to be given more legal rights to ensure better flight experiences. Others expressed a willingness to pay more for improved service:

    "Service is worse in 2007 than 2006 and I am paying more in 2007 than 2006."

    "Air travel has become a joyless experience that is to be avoided at all costs and endured when it cannot be avoided. There is no longer any difference between airlines as they all appear to be striving to provide the least amount of actual customer service they can. I get the specific impression they would be much happier just moving freight."

    "The airlines are making it increasingly difficult to receive any help during the travel process. To save money, they are making more and more tasks of the travel process the responsibility of the traveler rather than the airline."

    "I think when airlines hold you captive on flights at the gate or on the runway for hours, there should be compensation made to all passengers, or jail time for the airline company executives."

    "I feel as if I'm part of a herd. I think I'd rather pay a little more for a ticket than to be nickel-and-dimed for everything."

    "Airlines don't honor the ticket sale as a binding legal arrangement. Passengers are bound to follow the airlines/airports' rules, but airlines are free to abuse us based on whims. Family members of mine have in the past year sworn off flying forever because of the incomprehensibly rude 'service' they've received at the hands of the airlines."

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