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Improving customer service in the air

<div id="post-2663087-body">In a recent story about how airlines must improve customer service, we asked readers to share their opinions on how the airlines can make flying a better experience. Below are just a few of our reader's responses.</div>
Friendlier skies
Kim Carney /
/ Source:

In a recent story about how airlines must improve customer service, we asked readers to share their opinions on how the airlines can make flying a better experience. Below are just a few of our reader's responses.

More comfortable seats, please
I've endured long hours in seats that itched, forced my head forward, forced the small of my back to bend the wrong way, torqued my neck, had lumps in odd places, and that were far too small — not to mention the lack of leg room for even an average-sized 5'5" person. ...

How about just friendly customer service?
I have flown three times this year with three different airlines (two of the flights were international flights) and I have experienced very poor and unfriendly customer service.  I don't understand, especially when it comes to flight attendants.  I think that if you pay for a ticket (especially at such high prices), you should expect excellent customer service. ...

Give us the bad news all at once
Airlines basically did "customer first" in the late 90s to try to ward off mandates, then used 9/11 as a reason to chuck that out the window. The situation with seat room is totally out of sync with the size of individuals, and video systems add to problems by stealing legroom. None of the recent Boeing planes help matters any in coach, with the 777, 737-700/800 and the upcoming 787 all too cramped on width in coach. ...

Deliver on promises
Deliver me and my luggage to the agreed-upon destination as promised (not delayed, not re-routed, not bumped, not left-behind by a badly handled layover, not me in one destination and my luggage in another).  I made a decision to fly a certain airline based on schedule and price which were both set by the airline.  I paid for the ticket in advance.  I expect them to deliver what they promised — no excuses.

Don't try to sell me stuff on the flight (e.g. fancy cocktails, food, headphones.  What is next — paying to use the toilet as of it were a coin-operated washing machine?)

Don't force me to get assertive to get fair treatment when the situation has gone wrong.  If you authorize my connecting flight to leave without me, offer me several alternatives that will get me to my destination at approximately the same time as you promised, along with my bags.  If you can't deliver, don't let it leave without me.  I shouldn't have to insist on talking to 3 levels of managers to get what you owe me.  And don't try to "downsize" what you do to make up for the inconvenience.  Meal vouchers are not only meaningless if all of the restaurants are closed — they are an insult to my intelligence. ...

Attitude adjustment
First off, I must say that the airlines certainly need to do a 360 when it comes to treating their customer's rights.

Second, I agree with the previous posters. Leg room, surly agents and delays need to be seriously addressed.

I know what it's like to play hide-and-seek at an airport. Back in July on the way to Chicago, I had a stop in Detroit. Mechanical delays and a way-too-long search for replacement aircraft had me go all over the McManamara (Northwest) Terminal. They kept switching gates; I may have lost a couple of pounds every time. ...

Don't insult our intelligence
I recently booked a flight on United, then was able to arrange a day off so I could leave the day before.  When I tried to reschedule my departure online, there was a $155 additional fare which included a $100 change charge (hmmm, I'm the one doing all the work online, why don't they pay me?).  I called and was told the same thing. ...

Looking for some peace and quiet
After standing through countless busy lines, partially stripping and reclothing, and running through terminals with my luggage, the moment I sit on the plane I just want to relax.

This means I want a little peace and quiet. So use that intercom sparingly. You have to use it for federally mandated announcements, but please don't use it as an advertising device for your frequent flier program, or to make small talk about trivialities. By the time we've reached cruising altitude, I think I've been asked to enjoy the flight 3 times, heard the menu twice, been congratulated for being a frequent flier or urged to become one, mercilessly apologized to for the lack of 7UP twice, and for a late departure three times. I think the volume has also been getting louder, perhaps in an attempt to encourage compliance. You may want to strip the hard of hearing of excuses, but I would appreciate not dozing off with my ears ringing. Or just give me a mute button. ...

Infrequent travelers
I only fly 7 or 8 times a year, some are short commuter flights and some are cross country flights.  Most are for business.

The most irritating issue for me is what I refer to as amateur travelers .. the grandma who hasn't flown since 1973 and has no idea about the TSA regulations.  People who think they need to bring all of their luggage on the plane, taking up 2 or 3 overhead bins.  I recently saw a young woman stand in the security line for 45 minutes only to be told she needed to get her boarding pass from the airline desk, she (and her 2 friends) had no idea of what they were doing or what they were allowed to take through security.  I feel the TSA is responsible for a lot of the service flaws that are occurring now.  I think their knee jerk reactions to incidents create many hold ups and they have the worse customer service of any of the travel related industry. The whole liquid thing was a total joke. I couldn't bring liquid through security but once I was through security I could purchase a myriad of liquids and put them in my carry-on, I can't take my corkscrew on the plane because it has a 1 inch foil knife but grandma can bring her 14 inch knitting needles? ...

How about some accountability?
I think accountability should be the airlines top priority. If McDonalds can get my dinner order right, I think an airline can get me AND my luggage where I paid to go at at least approximately the time my ticket says I will be there.

Here's my list of 4 rules that I think would make air travel tolerable.

In fact, if I saw an airline that listed these rules as their way of business I would go out of my way to travel with them.  Normally price is the bottom line, but for the peace of mind I think many people would be willing to pay more to fly with a company that is willing to commit to these 3 rules. ...  

Skinny people complaining? Now it's bad
Window seats used to be the big desire, but not anymore, no one wants to be squeezed in there for hours.

I would think an airline that gave you a couple more inches across and for your feet would have a great advertising campaign to win customers.  I'm one that actually likes NWs option to buy the premo seats at the front (but still no more room), but I've booked their flights when only middle seats were left knowing that I'll most likely be able to buy something better for just $15 at check-in.  This leads into my next thought ...

Unions impact customer service
For me, there are two major issues that prevent good customer service from the airlines:

1. Unions — the unions are the reason that the airlines cannot get rid of the surly, miserable flight attendants in favor of those who are actually doing their job.  I spent part of my last flight on Northwest listening to the flight attendant complain about how she doesn't get paid enough, how the airline treats flight attendants horribly, and the fact that she can't get on the better routes because she doesn't have seniority.  ...  

Infrequent fliers' wish list
We fly 2-3 times a year.  Here's our "wish list":

1. Put the folks that insist on dragging everything but the kitchen sink on their vacation in the back of the plane and charge them $10.00 per piece of luggage that they store in the overheads.  We are sick and tired of having these people hold up the line when getting on/off the planes and hogging what little space there is up there.  What's more, it's no fun getting clunked on the head by a bag that comes tumbling out of the overhead compartment.

2. Make it clear from the start of the flight who is in charge:  the flight crew.  Remind passengers before takeoff that if there's an incident, the pilot has the final say as to what action is taken, and, if the offense is egregious enough, they'll be hauled away in handcuffs.  No excuses, no exceptions.  ...

Be upfront
1. Provide honest and accurate information about flight delays.

Southwest is the worst about this. They post delays 20 minutes at a time typically — and this can go on indefinitely.  Well, they know where their aircraft is, they know when it left its destination, and they know when it will be arriving at your gate.  Why do they do lie about this?  I don't know, but if you ask the gate agent more than one time for a honest and accurate estimate of departure time, that Southwest phony perkiness quickly becomes aggressive hostility, and combative confrontation, and quite possibly insults to your integrity and threats against you, just because you asked that question in a perfectly reasonably unangry way.  All that after we've been insulted by being lied to repeatedly that the flight was leaving in ... 20 minutes (even though it wasn't even at the gate).  And just as bad:  piling you on the plane, pushing back and THEN telling you that there will a 2-hour delay before departure.  Frankly, I think that practice should be considered criminal and should be stopped.

2.  Seats, as noted elsewhere here.  Heads pushed forward awkwardly.  No pillows to help stabilize your head if you want to sleep (hooray to Southwest for keeping them, boo to American and others for eliminating them, saving a few hundred thousand dollars system-wide, which is peanuts, but at a great cost of discomfort to passengers).  Seat width, and aisle width, too:  Yay Airbus, boo Boeing. ...

They should stop over booking
This is the only company that I know of that can break a contract and get away with it.  When you bought your ticket there was a contract between you and the airlines. ...