Tag Archives: Passengers

United Airlines Has Some Great News About Its Business (There's Bad News for Passengers)
August 12, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Even if it says so itself.

The airline just released some figures for July, and, at a cursory glance, they’re glowing.

Consolidated traffic (revenue passenger miles) increased 6.9 percent and consolidated capacity (available seat miles) increased 4.0 percent versus July 2017. UAL’s July 2018 consolidated load factor increased 2.4 points compared to July 2017.

Won’t you look at that?

This means the airline’s packing them in and making lots of money.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that domestic traffic rose by 9.1 percent in July. Compared to last July, that is.

And Lordy, the airline is doing wonderfully in the regions. There, traffic is up a pulsating 17.6 percent.

United’s also packing them in on each flight.

The so-called load factor (number of people who are actually paying) at home soared to 90.5 percent. That’s a 2.6 percent increase.

United was loaded internationally, too. A 2.2 percent increase to 87.8 percent.

People are paying to fly United and there are more flights to more places, which makes the United world a wonderful place.

Alright, if you read the headline at all — and if you didn’t, what are you doing here? — there’s a little bad news. 

You see, when you pack more people onto your planes, it might take a little longer. 

That’s what appears to be happening. All this success in selling tickets appears to be leading to a reduction in on-time departures, the beautifully named D0. 

A mere 62.3 percent of mainline flights — that is, the non-regional variety — departed on time or even slightly early. 

This is a 1 percent drop from this time last year.

This isn’t, of course, merely an inconvenience for passengers. When a plane departs late, cabin crew must explain themselves to their bosses.

Well, you see, it was like this. There were so many darned people. And have you seen all that stuff they bring on planes? 

Tech

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Delta Passengers Are Outraged. They Say Those With the Cheapest Tickets Are Getting Nicer Seats
May 13, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

“You’ll enjoy the best elite travel experience whenever you fly.”

That’s how Delta Air Lines describes the blessed privilege of being a Delta Medallion member.

Not just elite, but the best elite. The elite of the elite. 

I worry, therefore, that some of these Delta elitists are concerned that their eliteness is not complete.

And, indeed, that they’re being cast aside when it comes to upgrades, in favor of the riff-raff who bought the cheapest tickets.

Points, Miles and Martinis describes the pain: “On a recent trip, I noticed that the flight went from 6 Comfort Plus seats an hour before the flight, down to just 1 seat, 30 minutes prior as a result of the gate agents clearing Basic Economy passengers into Comfort Plus.”

Indeed, on this occasion, Points, Miles and Martinis insists that only one Medallion customer received an upgrade to Comfort Plus, while five Basic Economists were slipped straight into these more comfortable seats.

Others  commenting on this accusation said they’d seen similar events too. 

Goodness, this is like pulling people in off the street and giving them a table at the French Laundry. (Well, almost.)

It’s like giving lower-paid people a tax break that’s bigger than that poured upon the rich.

These Medallionists are peeved that Delta appears to be favoring the Basic Economists, who are only given a seat at the last minute.

The idea of Basic Economy — or Sub-Cattle Class, as I prefer to call it — is to shove these low-fare passengers into the middle seats that are left over. Not the Comfort Plus seats that are, well, a little more comfortable.

The suspicion is that, on some flights, gate agents are giving the nicer seats to these low-paying customers in order to get packed flights out on time.

I contacted the airline for its view. 

“While the situation described does not align with Delta’s upgrade procedure/policy, there is not a way to determine the Medallion level of other customers or the fare product another customer purchased via gate upgrades or standby displays,” a Delta spokesman told me.

So what are these aggrieved Medallionists supposed to do?

“Any customer who feels they were not given the correct seat assignment should share their concern with customer care, who will review their inquiry,” said the airline spokesman.

Some might fear, though, that this could be another painful assault on an airline’s most important customers.

Last week, I wrote about how United Airlines was angering its First Class passengers, removing some favorite menu items from its premium offerings.

Just, it seems, to save a little lucre.

Still, this alleged Delta move might encourage some passengers to buy the lowest fares, in the hope that they’ll actually get far lovelier seats.

Don’t airline passengers realize that the concept of Something For Nothing is precisely the one that airlines are fighting against?

Their principle these days is Everything For A Payment.

If this alleged Delta generosity toward the Sub-Cattle Class is true, it casts a pall on the image and modern purpose of airlines.

Tech

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Southwest's Apology to Passengers on Flight 1380 Is Brilliant, and It's Not Just the Cash. Here's Why
April 21, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

For the passengers who survived the emergency landing on Southwest Flight 1380 this week, on which Jennifer Riordan died, the flight must have been a horrifying experience. 

The pilot and copilot have had been hailed as heroes, and Southwest CEO Gary Kelly was praise for the fast apology and condolence statement he offered via video. But you can imagine that the airline might want to continue to respond to the affected passengers quickly.

Apparently, it has. Even as the federal investigation into the incident continues, Southwest reportedly sent letters with personal apologies and quick compensation to passengers from Flight 1380 just a day after the emergency.

Obviously, any big company that faced a debacle like this needs to do something similar and quick.  Many do, but only in exchange for people offering to drop all claims against the company (more on whether that’s happening here, in a second).

But there’s something interesting in how Southwest handled the issue–a combination of what they offered, and how they worded the apology letter, as reported, signed by Kelly:

We value you as our customer and hope you will allow us another opportunity to restore your confidence in Southwest as the airline you can count on for your travel needs. … In this spirit, we are sending you a check in the amount of $ 5,000 to cover any of your immediate financial needs.

As a tangible gesture of our heartfelt sincerity, we are also sending you a $ 1,000 travel voucher…

Our primary focus and commitment is to assist you in every way possible.

What leaps out at me is, oddly, the smallest financial part of the compensation: the $ 1,000 travel voucher. (Although, it’s funny: psychologically people sometimes put a higher subjective value on a tangible thing valued at a certain amount, then they do on cash.)

Even in the wake of tragedy, Southwest is taking steps to try to keep these customers–as customers. 

As some commenters have pointed out, while the uncontained engine failure aboard flight 1380 was terrifying for passengers, and resulted in loss of life and injury, it’s by no means the first time a flight suffered a similar catastrophe and ultimately landed.

Commercial airlines like a 737 are designed to be able to fly with one of the engines disabled, and professional aircrew train and drill on what to do in this kind of situation. The emergency was deftly handled by Captain Tammie Jo Shults and first officer Darren Ellisor.

Part of why this story was so widely reported however, is that passengers were immediately sharing it on social media. One passenger famously paid $ 8 for inflight WiFi even while he thought the plane was going to crash, so that he could broadcast on Facebook Live what was happening and say a farewell to friends and family.

So, connect this to the travel vouchers. Beyond taking a step toward repairing the relationship with these passengers, what better PR result could Southwest hope for than some positive travel experiences and social media posts from one of them, as a result? 

I wouldn’t expect Southwest to articulate this rationale; that would actually undercut it. And, I do have a couple of other questions about how this all works, for which I’ve reached out to Southwest for answers. I’ll update this post when I hear back.

For example, I would assume that the family of the passenger who died on the flight, Jennifer Riordan, would be treated differently, and maybe also the seven passengers who reportedly were injured. 

There’s also the question of whether these are really just goodwill payments, or a way to quickly settle 100 or more potential claims against the airline. If it’s the more traditional, transactional legal strategy of just trying to settle claims quickly, then that undercuts a lot of this.

However, I’m judging based on the experience of one passenger, Eric Zilbert of Davis, California, that this might not be the case. Zilbert reportedly checked with a lawyer before accepting the compensation,” to make sure I didn’t preclude anything.” Based on the lawyer’s advice, went ahead and did so.

Of course, this doesn’t mean every passenger is happy with the gesture. For example, Marty Martinez of Dallas, the passenger who became famous after he livestreamed the emergency landing over Facebook Live, said he’s not satisfied.

“I didn’t feel any sort of sincerity in the email whatsoever, and the $ 6,000 total that they gave to each passenger I don’t think comes even remotely close to the price that many of us will have to pay for a lifetime.”

Even so, Southwest sort of got what they’d probably like to see in his case, anyway: a tangible demonstration that despite the experience aboard Flight 1380, he’s willing to fly with the airline again.

The proof? He gave his quote to an Associated Press reporter, the account said, “as he prepared to board a Southwest flight from New York.”

Tech

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