c5load
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U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Travel?

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:31 am

Mods, first of all, if this has been posted before please delete and, if any of you can think of a better title, please change it, thanks.

It can't all be blamed on 9/11 for the reason that it seems to me that we have become inferior to the rest of the world in terms of air travel. I will admit that we have come a long way in luxuries and amenities, but the European and Asian Airlines still seem to have the edge. I find it hard to believe that it has always been this way. Yeah, we have the 77L and 744 for long range, but other international airlines seem to have those plus more and have far more luxurious accommodations.

If I am wrong in my thinking, please tell me and I will ask the mods to delete this.
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catiii
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:33 am

Quoting c5load (Thread starter):
t seems to me that we have become inferior to the rest of the world in terms of air travel.

Inferior in what way? I don't know of many, if any, other comparable countries that have the vigorous competition and service levels in terms of frequency and cities served as the United States.
 
c5load
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:41 am

Quoting catiii (Reply 1):
Inferior in what way?

I guess in terms of quality and modern equipment. Maybe it's just the American people not wanting high quality, but the newest aircraft the US airlines have taken delivery of is the 77L for DL (of new aircraft type). But it seems the international airlines of wide variety are taking delivery of a new Boeing or Airbus every month.
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DAL763ER
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:45 am

I would give up all the amenities on European flights (although not many) for in-flight Wi-Fi which is pervasive in the US.
 
planewasted
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:46 am

Many Europeans travel with Ryanair, they have much lower standards than the US airlines. And in Sweden, when flying our national carrier SAS, you usually travel on an MD-80. And not even soft drinks and coffee are for free. A cup of coffee cost about 3$!
 
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:50 am

The economics of the U.S. airline business are far more challenging than those in the parts of the world that always feature cutting-edge fleets and hard products.

We have the world's most brutal domestic market, with long stage lengths, tough low-fare competition, a culture of frequency, and bargain-basement consumer expectations. We face challenges internationally as well, in large part because we have so many destinations and no natural central hubs. An LH or AF can consolidate in one hub and send huge equipment to our largest destinations, while we don't have that luxury in most markets. (This is why we operate so many TATL 757s and TPAC 767s and A330s -- something unique to us.)

Not all of this is bad. Air travel is much more accessible to more of the people here than it is in many parts of the world. Our airlines are very competitive economically on world markets, despite high labor costs (and relatively good standards of living for the workers). But it makes it hard to drop billions on new equipment every ten years.
 
mham001
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:52 am

The perception probably stems from the higher end airlines around the world vs those in the US. They don't compare.
 
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Aaron747
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:52 am

Quoting c5load (Reply 2):
I guess in terms of quality and modern equipment.

Compared to most of developed Asia, US carriers cannot maintain equipment condition and quality to the same standards due to a couple of important factors - namely the inability of some Americans to use things in a respectful and non-destructive manner, and the inability to hire staff who will take pride in relatively menial work and reliably clean and maintain things to a standard necessary to keep things in more or less the same condition they were installed.

This is a cultural difference more than anything else, and is very difficult to overcome. If you need proof, go to a luxury shopping center in the US and then visit same in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc. You will find similar architectural stylings, expanses of glass, high-quality stone walkways and the like, but if you look closer, you will notice scratches, inoperative light fixtures, missing bathroom toilet paper, dented doors, graffiti repair, and other signs of disrespect, neglect, or disrepair on the US side.
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:53 am

Quoting catiii (Reply 1):
I don't know of many, if any, other comparable countries that have the vigorous competition and service levels in terms of frequency and cities served as the United States.


Europe is about as big as the USA compare the services between them.
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AA767400
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:55 am

Remember that many Asian/Middle Eastern countries have different laws. They can hire, and fire whoever they want. Hence why you see younger, and more appealing employees at carriers like SQ/EK/CX etc. Add to that, that people value their employment. You can seem them take pride in their job, and only do it for several years before going to something else. Once you hit 30-35, you're gone. Many of these airlines keep things fresh. American carriers have employees who feel entitled, and don't leave because they're protected by unions, and laws in the U.S..

The Middle East is in the right place geographically for transiting, and being near oil reserves. They have access to that oil, and have more money to spend on new planes, and creature comforts. And again, let's not forgot about their laws. No unions, and contract employees. After a couple of years, you're gone. And can fire any bad apples not providing the service that is required.

Europeans have a different work ethic. I find them sometimes better than American carriers, but sometimes can lack warmth in their customer service. They have better inflight products, but don't raise the bar with customer service like Asian carriers do.

The United States has the kind of airlines, and competition that they have because of it's laws, and it's culture. Could it be better, sure. But at the moment, I don't see anything changing anytime soon.
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Charlienoble
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:02 am

I don't know much about what drives quality of in-flight service...maybe Americans just don't want to pay for it so the airlines don't compete on it.

But as for fleet age issues, you could just as easily look at that another way: the fact that airlines in the US can get such long service lives out of their equipment safely is a testament to their thrift and the quality of their maintenance programs.

If the dollars worked out in favor of constantly renewing the fleet every 5 years like some do, you can bet our airlines would do it.
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:02 am

Air travel, rail travel, water travel.... UGH. I tend to be a "small government" type of person, but firmly believe that a robust, efficient and multi-faceted infrastructure is VITAL to economic progress. In that regard, the U.S. is rapidly and sadly falling behind.
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YYZRWY23
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:07 am

Quoting c5load (Thread starter):

An interesting opinion, and you aren't entirely wrong, depending on your perspective. In North America, it seems that consumers prefer frequency over quality. What I mean by this is, I would rather be able to leave when I want then to have the most comfortable seat, or the nicest aircraft interior. That is at least my perspective.

But here are other things to consider.

Quoting catiii (Reply 1):
have the vigorous competition and service levels in terms of frequency and cities served

Big item to consider. There are very few countries in the world that have the level of competition as the United States. There are so many cities to serve, as so many willing to serve it, that frequency becomes more important. For example, a luxurious wide-body will fly you from SIN-HKG (two very large cities), at a 6x frequency per day. AC offers YYZ-YVR (of comaprable value in terms of economic activity) at 9x daily. The equipment used by AC isn't at the same level of luxury. but it allows me to choose from 33% more times than the consumer going SIN-HKG. I prefer this. I want to leave when I want. It seems that in Asia and the Middle East, consumers care more about the on-board product and will make concessions with their departure and arrival times.

The United States is by no means inferior to air travel. I think the United States is superior in some cases. The vast amount of choices consumers have to travel by air has more value to me than 5000+ movies on a flight. I have always felt that way, but a 19 year old citizen of the UAE may be appalled by the on-board amenities and services on a US or Canadian airline in comparison to Emirates or Etihad. But that consumer only gets a few choices per day to travel, I get many more.

Just my 0.02.

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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:12 am

Quoting YYZRWY23 (Reply 12):
The vast amount of choices consumers have to travel by air has more value to me than 5000+ movies on a flight.

Very true, but with the airlines constantly merging, it looks to be heading in the direction of two very large powerhouses and one still seemingly LCC (DL, UA, and WN). So we wouldn't have as large of a choice as we do now.
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:18 am

Quoting c5load (Reply 13):
it looks to be heading in the direction of two very large powerhouses and one still seemingly LCC (DL, UA, and WN).

A couple little operations called AA, US, and B6 might be a bit surprised to hear that...
 
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:48 am

Are total labor costs much different between the US, Europe, the Middle East, Singapore, etc? Meaning, the total cost of employing a F/A, a ramper, a gate agent, etc? Including pension, and whatever other social obligations.

Also, for a flight of comparable costs (fuel needs, etc), are yields much different around the world?

[Edited 2011-02-14 18:06:16]
 
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:48 am

Quoting SOBHI51 (Reply 8):
Europe is about as big as the USA compare the services between them.

Europe is a single market for domestic travel and that's why Ryanair, Easyjet or Air Berlin have many bases in different countries, providing domestic services. And the "future" is also a single international market.

One thing that Europe has that the US should seriously consider is the competition from high speed rail. We can see every major European city being linked by these services, and that represents an additional competition to airlines, being forced to improve their service. Of course the US is huge, but cities like DCA-PHL-LGA-BOS, DAL-HOU or LAX-SFO should be connected with a high speed rail at 218 mph or 350 km/h.
 
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:50 am

Quoting c5load (Reply 13):
So we wouldn't have as large of a choice as we do now.

Even though you do bring up a good point, it is one different from what I was trying to portray. You are speaking in terms of different choices in terms of airlines. Which, while decreasing a bit, is still a very competitive environment.

I was speaking to choices in terms of frequency. Even with UA and CO tying the knot, they will still have more frequencies on big city pairs than the 6x frequency of some Asian carriers to equivalent Asain city pairs (SIN-HKG example). On AA, there are 10x JFK-LAX to choose from, almost double the offerings of SQ. And that is just AA, then there UA, DL, CO(EWR), B6.....you get the idea.

USA air travelers still get way more choice in frequency than many places in the world, but don't get the best IFE, seat, or mood lighting.

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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:54 am

Quoting YYZRWY23 (Reply 17):
I was speaking to choices in terms of frequency.

Apologies, I meant to address that, but never did. I see your point as well, I would much rather have multiple times to choose to fly rather than try and catch one of the three or four segments a day.
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Charlienoble
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:55 am

Seems like an awful lot of cultural generalizations being made in this thread.

Assuming for a minute that the generalizations were 100% true, I think they account for a small portion of the differences between the perceived relative levels of 'quality'...compared to market forces, the regulatory environment and the workplace/compensation structures in place.

Quoting Aaron747 (Reply 7):
the inability to hire staff who will take pride in relatively menial work and reliably clean and maintain things to a standard necessary to keep things in more or less the same condition they were installed.

And according to the Peter Principle, as soon as companies find one of these hard-working people they promote them to middle management where they prove to be ineffective LOL.
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zhiao
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 2:07 am

Who cares? Overall the quality of our service industry/customer service is the best in the world. Airlines are one exception. Just walk into Best Buy and compare that to the top electronics store in Italy (for example). No comparison.. Trust me, living in Europe, you take for granted the high quality of customer service that they have in the US. Want to return a bad product in the US? Fine. In some others? Forget it, they will take forever.

[Edited 2011-02-14 18:15:24]
 
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 2:13 am

Quoting CharlieNoble (Reply 19):
Seems like an awful lot of cultural generalizations being made in this thread.

Culture is important - anyone with experience running a business knows this well.

Quoting CharlieNoble (Reply 19):
the workplace/compensation structures in place

Compensation structure is clearly not the issue. Starting pay for rampers is about $10.50/hr in Japan. Flight attendants are female therefore they can be paid on a lower salary structure.

Quoting tharanga (Reply 15):
Are total labor costs much different between the US, Europe, the Middle East, Singapore, etc? Meaning, the total cost of employing a F/A, a ramper, a gate agent, etc?

I can't speak to other places, but pension obligations are common for some job classes in Japanese companies. The entire airline industry is unionized in Japan but pension obligations are small owing to the country's national pension system that is paid into as a portion of every employee's check. Japan's system is similar to SS in the US but is more generous in some respects. Labor costs are somewhat lower in Japan for this kind of work due to lowered thresholds for liability insurance, workers' compensation, and no need for the company to make large contributions to employee health care coverage. As noted above, the pay scales are not any more generous than they are in the US, and in many cases are lower.
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InnocuousFox
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 2:17 am

Quoting GSPSPOT (Reply 11):

Air travel, rail travel, water travel.... UGH. I tend to be a "small government" type of person, but firmly believe that a robust, efficient and multi-faceted infrastructure is VITAL to economic progress. In that regard, the U.S. is rapidly and sadly falling behind.

If it was that vital, someone would be willing to pay for it. If someone were willing to pay for it, then someone would have been willing to make it purchasable. That goes for all travel services. Travel infrastructure such as roads still, in large part, need to be govermentaly run.

I think the pervasive point early in this thread was "define quality". Not only do different people have different preferences, but different cultures do as well. Also, there are different types of services for different types of markets. Most of the impressive quality things that people speak about for the international customers would be ridiculous to offer broadly in the US simply because the average stage length is under 2 hours. For some people in the US, a 90 minute flight is not much longer than their daily commute to work on a bus, car, or train.

Therefore, the only comparison that is valid is between the long-haul international flights and their peers abroad. That said, what is a comparable offering for UA, DL, CO, AA, etc. traveling from the States to Europe, Asia, or the Middle East? It certainly doesn't look like my 757 from OMA to DEN or DEN to SFO. Why? Because it doesn't need to. Pack in an extra 30% more people and save me some money on my ticket in the process. (Of course, I'm Premier Elite on UA so I'm getting Economy+ anyway.)
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tharanga
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 2:21 am

Quoting Aaron747 (Reply 21):
As noted above, the pay scales are not any more generous than they are in the US, and in many cases are lower.

I was looking in the other direction - if everybody's paying roughly the same fuel costs, aircraft acquisition costs, and so on, but yet airlines in some parts of the world can operate profitably with nicer product, even with rigorous competition, then I wonder if there are some costs which are simply lower outside the US. Labor comes to mind. But as you point out, labor costs are much more complicated than just salary - you've got pension, health care, comp, various other social insurance.
 
tharanga
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 2:24 am

Quoting InnocuousFox (Reply 22):
If it was that vital, someone would be willing to pay for it. If someone were willing to pay for it, then someone would have been willing to make it purchasable. That goes for all travel services. Travel infrastructure such as roads still, in large part, need to be govermentaly run.

I don't understand what you're trying to say. Your last sentence seems to diverge from the first ones.
 
Charlienoble
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 3:27 am

Quoting Aaron747 (Reply 21):
Culture is important - anyone with experience running a business knows this well.

I think you missed the point that I was trying to make, but that's fine.

I disagree with the notion that some sort of European/Asian cultural superiority accounts for the perceived difference in the "in flight experience" between airlines in the US and elsewhere. I'll leave it at that.
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 3:52 am

Quoting zhiao (Reply 20):
Who cares? Overall the quality of our service industry/customer service is the best in the world. Airlines are one exception. Just walk into Best Buy and compare that to the top electronics store in Italy (for example). No comparison.. Trust me, living in Europe, you take for granted the high quality of customer service that they have in the US. Want to return a bad product in the US? Fine. In some others? Forget it, they will take forever.

  

Man, this is so true. It's not politeness but having the customer first. Politeness and warmth is here in Asia (well, more so in SE Asia than, say, China) but really making the customer feel like he is the most important person is only found in the US.

The paradox (?) is that you find this across so many industries in the US except for the airlines. It seems that when we dine, when we shop, when we make use of any kind of service, we expect only the best. When it comes to the airlines it seems we are more than content by being treated as prisoners at best. Flying in the US always reminds me of the movie "Children of Men." I truly, truly hate flying in the US.

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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 7:12 am

Quoting Coal (Reply 26):
It seems that when we dine, when we shop, when we make use of any kind of service, we expect only the best.

I find a lot of service hopelessly deficient in these areas compared to what I've experienced in Asia as well. But maybe that's because I'm not wealthy.
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rwsea
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 8:42 am

I've been living in Europe for a little over a year now; in my opinion, the air travel experience in Europe is far superior. Here's my reasoning:

- First, there are nowhere near the delays in Europe that one would experience in the US. You don't have airports like JFK, LGA, ATL, ORD with massive delays and 10-20 planes in line to take off. Sure the airports in Europe might be less busy overall, but they aren't bogged down with regional jets; they tend to use larger planes and this leads to less runway congestion.

- Second, boarding and deboarding is such a pleasant experience compared to the domestic situation in the US. I am not sure if this is because the US legacies charge for baggage now, but you just don't see the mad rush to claim bag space and the subsequent checking of multiple bags like you find in the US. In 60+ flights last year I've never had any issues with this.

- Third, the airport experience is far superior. The airports tend to be much nicer and are much better connected to their respective cities.

In-flight service isn't really a whole lot different in my opinion, the main difference being that you might get a complimentary sandwich on a European short haul flight. IFE is rare, but at least from AMS the flights are so short that it doesn't matter. For long-haul business class, the US carriers are stepping up their game and in many cases are equal or better than European carriers.

One area where I have to give the US carriers credit is their technology. The websites of European carriers are not as easy to use as those of the US carriers. Things like viewing your reservation before your flight, or changing your ticket online are not always options. European carriers are also a lot stingier with their frequent flyer programs (although arguably, the miles are much easier to redeem).
 
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longhauler
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:16 pm

American carriers give Americans what Americans want.

If Americans wanted "extra" service, with cabin amenities then those carriers not offering it would fail, but they don't. And, every now and then when a "boutique" carrier pops up, it would succeed beyond all competition, but it doesn't. All Americans want is a cheap, safe seat from A to B.

And, American carriers offer that better than anyone!

So in reality, one should not ask "Is US service inferior to the world?", one should ask "Why is this what Americans want". In other words, you give the Customer what he wants, and you succeed ... you ignore what he wants, and give him what you think he should want ... and you fail.
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bogota
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:25 pm

Quoting Coal (Reply 26):
The paradox (?) is that you find this across so many industries in the US except for the airlines. It seems that when we dine, when we shop, when we make use of any kind of service, we expect only the best. When it comes to the airlines it seems we are more than content by being treated as prisoners at best.



Absolutely agree, I do not understand why people in the US put up with delays, put up with huge queues at security, put up with huge lines at immigration. They are so dependant on air travel that I would assume it should be a pleasure travelling in the USA. It is not, sadly.

Quoting longhauler (Reply 29):
If Americans wanted "extra" service, with cabin amenities then those carriers not offering it would fail, but they don't. And, every now and then when a "boutique" carrier pops up, it would succeed beyond all competition, but it doesn't. All Americans want is a cheap, safe seat from A to B.



I do not find air travel cheaper in the US than in Europe, if so many times is so much cheaper in Europe. No wonder you have new boys like Jet Blue or Virgin America becoming suddenly a success, yet somehow most people in the US seem to think that all that hassle for travelling on a plane is ok.
 
Charlienoble
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 2:25 pm

Quoting Aaron747 (Reply 27):
I find a lot of service hopelessly deficient in these areas compared to what I've experienced in Asia as well.

Yes, there is a certain politeness and respect between people and attention to detail that one finds in Japan that is not as prevalent here in the US, by my observation.

I suppose millions of racially-similar people crammed together on an island chain and isolated for centuries results in a different social dynamic than turning a mixed bag of entrepreneurs, felons, religious zealots, economic refugees and general transients loose on an entire continent. Go figure.

This translates into a better 'quality of service' if politeness, respect and attention to detail are what you are looking for. Seems that "fast and cheap" are higher priorities here.

On the other hand I have gotten plenty of good service in the US, generally proportional to how I treat the people serving me. Even on an airplane. I find that Americans will bend over backwards for a customer but don't do "subservient" very well.

Quoting Aaron747 (Reply 27):
But maybe that's because I'm not wealthy.

You really ought to try it...  
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mdavies06
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:23 pm

I found that all in all travelling in the US is different but in many ways are not inferior to airlines/airports in other parts of the world.

Price
- In this area I think the US clearly is better for flyers because you can choose how you pay for the flight, with a complete break down to catering and baggages. Flying in Asia or ME, for example, the norm is still 'everything is included in the price' but a lot of the catering (for example inflight meals in domestic Chinese routes or sandwiches in some European flights) leaves much to be desired

Flexibility
- In the US, almost any point A to B route can be bought on geniune one way fare which is about half of the return fare. there are a lot of 'busy' routes out there where one way fares are not available in other parts of the world (e.g. HKG-NRT, DOH-DXB to name a few). Travelling in the US is great with multiple frequencies and wifi, something which non-US airlines mostly do not offer.

Airline services
- The services of the ground agents can be bad anywhere in non US. Inflight services wise, there are a lot of large carriers in non US where inflight services can be worse than US carriers. I can recall previous flights where crews in EK, SQ or CX who were less attentive, less courteous and less mindful of requests than flights with DL/NW/UA/AA.

Airport infrustructure
- Many people praise non-US 'grand' airports such as DXB, ICN and SIN for their architectural design and ease of connections, but this is not actually a fair comparison because connection often do not involve immigration and baggage reclaim. there are other airports which are also bad (DXB T1, AMS and LHR to name a few) for baggage reclaim, transfer or immigration. Many large terminals (CDG T1 for example) should have been knocked down long ago. Travelling in most terminals in Eastern Europe and many parts of Asia leave much to be desired. If one arrives at LHR T3 early afternoon, the queue to get through passport control can take 30-60 mins for non EU passport holders. Could that be worse?
 
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:59 am

One example of how inferior air travel is in the US; our airports. One word sums it up - UGLY.
 
Flyingsottsman
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RE: U.S. Inferior To The World In Terms Of Air Tra

Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:09 am

Everything these days is all about cost cutting, making money in an ever cut throat world, in order to save money they need to trim, cut costs and if that means services suffer than so be it. Qantas has been cost cutting for years sending their aircraft overseas for maintiance and their service standard has fallen from what it use to be. Add to this is the Low Cost revalution that swept the airline industry which the major legacy carriers tried to compete with and couldnt ie- United's TED in the US and Delta's low cost Song and in Eruope BA's attemp with GO, so its all about cutting costs and saving money. The US is maybe the most competive as far as air travell goes and as we have seen over the years with some of the biggest and most famous airlines disapearing and its because they have to cut here trim there to survive. So when this has to be done yes service and attention to detail will suffer, some citys will be taken of an airline's network and to instead of having a meal and drinks as part of the ticket you now have to pay to have a meal and drinks. So its not just in the US that some might feel there is an inferior airline service its the same all over the world, even down here in Australia and we dont have half the population or citys as the USA does. The American carriers and in fact the major legacy carriers of the world are doing there best to survive in a cut throat world of competition with a last man standing attidude.

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