Airline customer service close to nil, eTN poll reveals


LAS VEGAS (eTN) – A whopping 93 percent of the total 3197 respondents to an eTurboNews poll claim that airlines are under-performing in terms of customer service.

Launched in January this year, the eTN poll asked respondents whether they agree or disagree to the statement: Airlines need to up the ante on customer service. Of the total 3197 respondents, 2978 said they agreed, while the rest (219 or 7 percent) said they disagreed.

Ilan Geva said: “Airlines have no clue on how to implement customer service, they simply think that we will need them forever. Obviously, some are doing better than others, but overall, they are some of the worst suppliers in the business of needs and wants.”

Peter of said: “Being a travel agent has been very disheartening over the past few years. Many people now bypass us and book direct on travel websites thinking they are getting a better deal. Not true at all. Airlines, especially domestic USA flights, are a joke with their baggage charges and lack of customer service. The taxes, by the way, are not the fault of the airlines so don’t blame them for that. There are still some great airlines out there–Cathay Pacific, Asiana, Singapore Air, Emirates, Virgin and others. Just like politics people gripe but do nothing. You have the power, but apparently are just too lazy to use it…but now is the time to take that power back!”

Mindy of says baggage fees are a big gripe with her. She said: “The nature of air travel dictates that most travelers will have luggage! With baggage charges more passengers are carrying on than ever before and in a big way. It takes forever to load or deplane as passengers are searching to stow or wrestling with getting their bags out of overhead bins. And look out if one of those bins opens up unexpectedly! In my mind airlines should be encouraging passengers to check their bags, not this. It’s more like the bus every day. In fact – I took a Greyhound recently and had a much more pleasant experience than on either of my two cross country flights before and after.”

What about ridding of customer service agents altogether and just rely on kiosks only? This is what “Professor Sabena” seems to be implying in a comment posted on January 27, 2010. “Let me be a contrary here. There is an assumption that the customer service improvement is based on more resources in the human sphere. In my humble opinion, it’s the quality of the people and the empowerment of the individuals. There needs to be a rethink in the process of customer service. Frankly, I am very happy not to have to deal with humans on my way through the check-in process and very happy to book online for the vast majority of my travel, which is extensive. I know more than the people at the end of the phone whether they are in India or Omaha. So, lets see if people are prepared to bite the bullet and rethink what customer service means. Then re-ask the question.”

Nick Fernandes said: “Airlines are no more than blood suckers, they advertise low fares without taxes which is unethical and when one looks at the total that has to be paid it exceeds the basic air fare – you call this daylight robbery – the right to information has been deprived, yet when you look at the quality of service one gets a reality shock to know that AIRLINES FEEL THAT THEY ARE DOING A FAVOR TO CUSTOMERS FLYING WITH THEM. Little do they realize that their fat pay checks at the end of the month comes only because it is WE customers who keep them in business. Yet when it comes to being respectful, courteous, helpful one sees nothing at all. It’s a shame and what is IATA doing about this. Nothing. The snacks on board are a joke, business class – one gets a dried sandwich, drinks take an arm and a leg to be served, night flights are pathetic, the attendants sleep and chat rather than taking periodic rounds in the cabin, where has the service industry fallen, words cannot describe how pathetic the airlines operate, they need a reality check. Saudi – my my – just a joke; Air India – a bunch of jokers; Lufthansa – does nothing if a passenger is oversized and occupies half of another passenger’s seat; Air France and British Airways – one has to be careful if you would be hit by a strike. Can anyone rely on service; does anyone know what service means? I can go on an on, but does not get better.”

Meanwhile, Mary, who claims to be an airline worker, said: “It’s not that we’re not nice people, it’s that we have to enforce horrible rules. These rules started because airlines, in an effort to compete, have lowered their airline tickets to ridiculous lows, and are charging extra for all the little things that used to be included. If you don’t like this, blame Southwest. Before they started doing these $49 or $89 dollar tickets, airlines never had to lower their prices to compete. Ever since that began, airlines have had to make prices so low, that they need to make up the money somewhere, just to cover the cost of fuel. It’s not our fault. Don’t blame us, blame the system! Demand higher fares by the buying the higher fares. Stop buying tickets on Expedia, Travelocity, etc. You get what you pay for!”

A comment that elicited a response from “PR,” who said: “Sick and tired of that comment “You get what you pay for” from illiterate, rude airline employees. I recently paid $900 for a one-hour flight from LA to SF in first class. When I boarded there was no room in the overhead for my carryon bag and the flight attendant told me to carry it to the back of first class. The first class service refreshments were a choice of a glass of water or a glass of orange juice. I turned them down. When I said something, they called the chief attendant and said I was a security risk. That is just plain abuse. The airlines in the US and Europe are rude and it doesn’t matter what one pays for a ticket. Airline employees should put themselves in the passengers’ shoes with respect to their rudeness and lack of service to customers – have seen too much of it – no service to parents with babies (used to bring food or milk), to disabled and elderly. United tried to say disabled have to pay for premium economy to get seating. What happened to the laws in US and Europe?
Air travel is traumatic these days. Avoid it if you can.”

Mary best summed up the state which airline customer service is presently in with her comment. She said: “A few years ago at another travel agency, I had the pleasure of working along side a past president of ASTA. He said that during his tenure as president, he asked the CFO of a major airline why the airlines were not doing more to improve the level of service to passengers. That airline CFO’s answer was: ‘We are not service organizations.’ The airlines are continuing to prove that out. They have no intent to provide any decent level of customer service to passengers.

Do you agree with this poll’s results? There’s still time to weigh in. Go to to vote or just simply share your opinion.