With the reputation of some US based airlines considered the worst in the western world, just why is this the case and what should US carriers do to lift their game?
While carriers particularly in Asia/pacific & Europe are innovating, with new aircraft, cabin interior, entertainment options and improvements in service, US based carriers are failing dismally. Time after time I hear complaints about US Airlines in the following areas:
Overbooked & Delayed flights: With 20-30 % of flights in the US last month (Feburary 2008) being delayed or rescheduled, and many flights overbooked, how can passengers and for that matter business travellers survive. A delayed flight has a roll-on effect not just to passengers but also the economy as a whole. If 20-30% of flights are being delayed how many of these passengers are missing flight connections and/or meetings?
Outdated Aircraft: With the launch of the Airbus A380 of the 192 firm orders for the A380 only 10 are on order for a US Company, this is not even a carrier but the ILFC (International Lease Finance Corporation), which means it’s quite likely some of these aircraft will be leased to an overseas airlines.
So maybe US Carriers are looking to Boeing for the future of their fleet, this is not the case, of the 920 or so orders placed for the 787 Dreamliner only 104 are destined for a US company 70 of which are being sold to leasing companies, and leased on the no-US carriers.
Outdated Cabins: On a recent trip from SYD to LAX a UK based consultant asked if 80’s 90’s retro cabins were back in style, and was quoted saying the cabin looked to be out of the set of a Die Hard movie. In reality it’s not that bad, even though US Carriers are not opting for the new Airbus A380 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner, they are updating their cabins. I have fears for how long this process will take, but ultimately who wants to be flying in an old aircraft?
Entertainment systems are another sticking point; many overseas airlines have already or are in the process of installing personal Video On Demand (VOD) units in each seat, including economy/coach. Just how many International flights by US carriers have Personal Video On Demand units in economy?
Some US based Airlines charging to check an additional bag: Fair enough if you go over your allocated baggage limit, you expect an additional change, but an extra charge for each additional bag you check in, this is purely a money making exercise, and its one we hope won’t be followed by other airlines.
Airline Ground & Cabin Staff friendliness: In my opinion it’s the airline ground and cabin staff that can make the difference between a bad or average flight and a great flight. Airlines in the US need to pay great attention to this by attracting great staff that can make someone smile even if they are having a bad day.
US Carriers and Airlines seriously need to wake up and smell the roses; the US flying public are seeing fresh, innovative products and service from foreign carriers, but not much from their own airlines. In fact some US frequent flyers I know refuse to fly US carriers when flying out of and into the US. Personally I stay clear of US based airlines if possible.
With the OpenSkies agreement possibility seeing more competition on once highly protected routes, future implications will be dire if things are not changed, some say consolidation of carriers in the US is required before the industry can improve. In reality the items which customers place the most importance on such as customer service, overbooked and delayed flights can be fixed without an incredible amount of expense.
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