Airline Travelers Are Actually … Happier?

Posted April 9, 2009 by Nicki Krawczyk

2thumbs_up Here’s the thing about airlines–sometimes they descend and sometimes they ascend. As you may have noticed over the past couple of years, the overall level of customer satisfaction, service and timeliness has hovered around 5,000 feet (metaphorically speaking, of course). Well, good news, air travelers: On that scale they’ve done a bit of ascending. We’re nowhere near cruising altitude yet, but any move up is a good one when it comes to air travel.

According to an annual quality survey put out by private researchers and based on government statistics, things are looking up pretty much across the board. (Seriously!) From better on-time records to fewer lost/mishandled bags and fewer bumped passengers, airline service has improved down to even the small regional carriers.

Great news, right? Now, there’s less of a chance that your weekend getaways will turn into weeklong odysseys or that your one-way flights will turn into no-way flights. Yay! However, the story isn’t quite as cut and dry as it seems—it’s not necessarily that airlines are getting better at accommodating all of their customers; the statistics could be much more influenced by the fact that there are fewer customers to accommodate.

With the economy in a tenuous spot, fewer people are traveling and, with fewer people traveling, fewer people need to get bumped off of overbooked flights. And with fewer customers to provide service for, it may just naturally be easier for airlines to provide said service. Also, fees for checked luggage may have led to more people carrying on their luggage and—yep, you guessed it—resulted in fewer instances of checked bags being mishandled because there are fewer bags to be handled, in the first place.

So, as air travelers, we’re kind of happier. The airlines are treating us (and our luggage) better, but we’re also paying more in fees and, with fewer and fewer flights available, having harder times finding flights that accommodate our schedules. In my estimation, the best way to balance this out (and avoid a zero sum game) is just to bask in the good service you do get … and find yourself some fantastic airline deals.


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