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billreid
Topic Author
Posts: 761
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:04 am

US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 10:16 am

I fly over 120K on a US major.
I've flown on over 44 flag carriers.

I must say that regardless how we look at the smaller flag carriers deliver a better product every time.

So you DL or US or AA or UA or CO or NW employees try to explain to me how I will get anything short of junk or third world service on our merged products.

When it comes to valuu for cost why do we Americans just throw service out the door. I am tired about hearing employees complain about the other airline.

WHAT ABOUT ME THE PAYING CUSTOMER, COMMON!
Some people don't get it. Business is about making MONEY!
 
jetdeltamsy
Posts: 2688
Joined: Tue Nov 14, 2000 11:51 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 10:26 am

Things have been this bad for years. You just now figuring that out??????

Flag carriers frequently have (or used to have) government "investment" which allows them to continue offering things US carriers can no longer afford.
Tired of airline bankruptcies....EA/PA/TW and finally DL.
 
aviateur
Posts: 562
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2004 9:25 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 10:33 am

Quoting Jetdeltamsy (Reply 1):
Flag carriers frequently have (or used to have) government "investment" which allows them to continue offering things US carriers can no longer afford.

Nah, that's mostly a red herring. Nobody expects a five course meal and a potted plant at every seat when you're paying $149 to fly from New York to Paris, but consider the JP Morgan audit of Emirates that found no undue influence from so-called "subsidies." There is more to the problem of bad service than simple economics. It's a culture issue, for lack of a better description. The types of things that differentiate a U.S. carrier from the Singapores and Virgins and Emirates of the world aren't always a bigger seat, a bigger video screen, more expensive amenities. It's the small touches -- and, the *human* touches. I hate to say it, but American employees simply don't *care* about providing good service. It doesn't take a healthy bottom line to pick garbage up off the floor, or to realize that handing out half-ounce paper cups of drinking water, instead of a full, 14-cent bottle, is insulting and obnoxious and ultimately self-defeating...

I've written about this for Salon, the Robb Report, and several other publications. BillReid might like these articles of mine, which expand on the points above...

Onward and upward with the airlines we love to hate:
http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/2006/07/21/askthepilot195/

Part two: it’s the bottled water, stupid:
http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/2006/07/28/askthepilot196/

Airline survey part 1: The best airlines:
http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/...004/05/07/askthepilot85/index.html

Airline survey part 2: Worst of the worst airlines:
http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/...004/05/14/askthepilot86/index.html


- PS

[Edited 2006-12-14 02:46:55]
Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist and author
 
roseflyer
Posts: 9602
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2004 9:34 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:02 am

Service levels have a lot to do with culture. In the United States good customer service is almost always rewarded in some way. In a restaurant or salon, you tip. You will return to your doctor, dentist or even dry cleaners if they serve you well. You will recommend your real estate agent or stock broker to friends.

In the aviation industry, there is no reward. Because of this, customer service falls. People do only what they have to. There is nothing motivating a customer service agent to work hard at an airport. There is zero reward. Americans just don't take enough pride in their jobs and work to provide good customer service. Furthermore, an airline job doesn't pay that great. It isn't the type of job where people are fighting to stay in because they know they could be replaced at any second. Unions and large companies don't make it easy to get fired. Labor laws and labor organizations don't let it happen. They reward people for doing the minimum amount of work necessary. Americans just don't have enough motivation or pride to truly provide good customer service in every case. I can understand someone having a bad day, but the numbers of bad days are not equal to the number of good days.

In other parts of the world, people have much more pride. A flight attendant working for Singapore Airlines will lose his or her job for poor performance. Unions and labor laws do not allow that to happen in the United States. East Asians tend to take so much pride in their work. Getting a job as a flight attendant for Cathay Pacific is a huge deal and a respectable job.

Airlines try their best to provide good customer service where possible, but there just isn't enough money to be made in the industry to truly provide good service. If you add up all the net profits and losses of US based airlines in the history of flight, you will find that it is a net loss. Aviation is one of the few industries and by far the biggest that you can find where overall more companies are losing money and going bankrupt than are succeeding. For every Southwest Airlines, there are ten Vanguards, Nationals, Midways, Pan Ams, Transmeridians, and others.

Airlines can't afford to give perks like free meals away. Airlines have to keep staff levels to the lowest amount possible. These don't help morale. I for one do not want to work for an airline even though I truly love the industry. I took a job at an engineering company that is profitable in making parts for both military and commercial airplanes. The morale around a company in a difficult financial situation is never good. The hallways at United Airlines in Chicago are probably as miserable as at GM's headquarters. Low morale provides a worse product. In airline terms it means more lost baggage, less on time service, low customer service levels and many other poor metrics.

All in all, there is a lot causing the poor service levels in the United States airline industry. No one can just flip a switch and have a new Virgin Atlantic or Singapore Airlines pop up. Those are different parts of the world, diffierent cultures and different operating dynamics.
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
 
UAL747
Posts: 6725
Joined: Mon Dec 13, 1999 5:42 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:05 am

Ever been to Wal-Mart or Sam's Club Store's? There is the consumer mentality right there. That's what the typical American consumer wants, and that's what they get. Quantity over quality.

UAL
"Bangkok Tower, United 890 Heavy. Bangkok Tower, United 890 Heavy.....Okay, fine, we'll just turn 190 and Visual Our Way
 
bucky707
Posts: 955
Joined: Sat Aug 19, 2000 2:01 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:09 am

Americans don't value good service. They say they do, but at the end of the day they will purchase their tickets based on a one dollar difference in price. It's not just the airlines. How else can you explain the success of Walmart? Horrible service, but things are a bit cheaper than other places.
 
kstateinALB
Posts: 546
Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2006 10:22 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:15 am

Quoting Bucky707 (Reply 5):
Americans don't value good service. They say they do, but at the end of the day they will purchase their tickets based on a one dollar difference in price.

I absolutely agree with you. An A-NET member might choose their airline based on what they know about it, regarding IFE and service, but the average American will take the lowest price on Expedia just because they need to get to the place they want to go. They expect everything from food to entertainment for a $59 flight. That's what Americans want, and unfortunetly for them, many times they don't get it.
 
jetdeltamsy
Posts: 2688
Joined: Tue Nov 14, 2000 11:51 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:25 am

Quoting Bucky707 (Reply 5):
Americans don't value good service

With that I disagree. But I do think US customers prefer lower fares over higher service levels. The issue has been evaluated to death. Those that tried to continue to offer a premium product, with the exception of a couple of niche markets..such as UA's PS transcon service, lost money and eventually lowered their service levels to mimic that of Southwest.

The "premium" that Southwest offers is reliability, which only increases their profitability.

Average flyers in the US expect a clean plane to operate on time and to arrive safely at their destination at the same time as their bags. Anything beyond that is gravy.
Tired of airline bankruptcies....EA/PA/TW and finally DL.
 
Bicoastal
Posts: 2446
Joined: Wed Oct 06, 1999 5:56 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:29 am

Non-USA carriers are a different animal, too. Unlike US carriers that have money losing domestic routes with loads of competition and penny-pinching passengers looking for cheap seats, foreign carriers have mostly money making international routes where they can charge what it actually costs to fly. Throw lower labor costs into it for Asian carriers (where they legally put flight attendants out to pasture when they turn 30 or get married....try that in the USA). Then we have our US labor unions, American tort system, and other costs of doing business.

So while American carriers have to compete with those foreign carriers, it's not a level playing field. I fly UA trans-Pacific often enough in business and see a good number of non-US residents on board in first and business, so it can't be all that bad if they're not flying an airline from their own countries.
Airliners.net has many forums. It has spell check and search functions. Use them before posting!
 
luv2fly
Posts: 11056
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 2:57 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:32 am

Quoting UAL747 (Reply 4):
Ever been to Wal-Mart or Sam's Club Store's? There is the consumer mentality right there. That's what the typical American consumer wants, and that's what they get. Quantity over quality.

UAL

Really then explain what Nordstroms, Saks and Macys are still doing being open for business?
You can cut the irony with a knife
 
billreid
Topic Author
Posts: 761
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:04 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 12:07 pm

Quoting Luv2fly (Reply 9):
Really then explain what Nordstroms, Saks and Macys are still doing being open for business?

Their customers fly KLM or SAS or Virgin Business class.
Some people don't get it. Business is about making MONEY!
 
Tango-Bravo
Posts: 2941
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2001 1:04 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Thu Dec 14, 2006 12:46 pm

Quoting Bucky707 (Reply 5):
Americans don't value good service. They say they do, but at the end of the day they will purchase their tickets based on a one dollar difference in price

Indeed, U.S. consumers are the ultimate hypocrites. There is a vast disconnect between what they say they want and what they vote for with their money. It's not just cheap fares that cause instant memory loss of poor service; U.S. airline pax also allow themselves to be held hostage to their "investment" in frequent flier programs, consistently returning over and over and over again to the airline they're "never going to fly again" in their obsession with the holy grail of frequent flier freeloader programs, free flights and maybe even membership in one of the elite tiers of the legacies' caste systems. They also say they loathe the convoluted bait-and-switch schemes of the legacies but can't wait to return for more.

Bottom line, as I see it, is that U.S. airline pax have no one to blame but themselves for the indifferent, shoddy, sometimes wretched service they experience on U.S. airlines inasmuch as they allow their "loyalty" to be bought by disingenuous marketing schemes rather than forcing the airlines to earn their genuine loyalty with reliable service that is of acceptable quality. The type of service U.S. airline pax love to lament is precisely what they collectively deserve.
 
aviateur
Posts: 562
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2004 9:25 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 12:45 am

And why is Southwest so successful... because people don't expect anything from them. Southwest's service is just as crappy as UA's or AA's or NW's, but people love them. They've perfected the art of get-what-you-pay-for satisfaction. Southwest is the Wal-Mart of airlines.
Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist and author
 
Tango-Bravo
Posts: 2941
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2001 1:04 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 4:18 am

Quoting Aviateur (Reply 12):
Southwest's service is just as crappy as UA's or AA's or NW's, but people love them.

Apparently then, people actually still appreciate an airline who underpromise and overdeliver? ...or, at the least, consistently deliver what is promised... and apparently don't appreciate the legacies' penchant for overpromising and underdelivering? ...even though they keep going back to the legacies for more of the same, thanks to the addictive "narcotics" (cheap fares and FF schemes) dispensed by legacies on which customers choose to become hooked?

Quoting Aviateur (Reply 12):
They've perfected the art of get-what-you-pay-for satisfaction.

Sure beats getting less-than-what-you-thought-you-paid-for dissatisfaction! (due to unrealistic expectations created by self-serving legacy airline marketing departments) At least in my mind.

Quoting Aviateur (Reply 12):
Southwest is the Wal-Mart of airlines.

Suggest you try selling that to a group of Southwest and Wal-Mart employees comparing notes with each other on their compensation from their respective employers. And I will take the attitude of Southwest People toward their customers over that of Wal-Mart employees and legacy airline employees 9 times out of 10.

[Edited 2006-12-14 20:31:47]
 
FlyDeltaJets87
Posts: 4479
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 3:51 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 4:43 am

Quoting Aviateur (Reply 12):
Southwest is the Wal-Mart of airlines.

Not that I completely agree with that, but to put it one way my friend put it: "It's the same damn tiger on the box [referring to Frosted Flakes] whether you buy it at Wal-Mart or anywhere else."

Quoting Luv2fly (Reply 9):
Really then explain what Nordstroms, Saks and Macys are still doing being open for business?

This is probably why the legacies are struggling though. The market is there for those who wish to pay a little more for better service. Problem is, it's not as large as the legacies want their company to be.

Quoting Bucky707 (Reply 5):
Americans don't value good service. They say they do, but at the end of the day they will purchase their tickets based on a one dollar difference in price.

They do that because there is virtually little difference in the quality of product and service between the airlines, so they go with the cheaper product. You say that price is the deciding factor for most people, but it's only the deciding factor for those people if the two products are virtually identical. However, obviously price is not the only factor, because just like retail stores, there are plenty of Americans who choose to drive a BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, etc. over a KIA.

*Edited for grammar

[Edited 2006-12-14 20:53:50]
"Let's Roll"- Todd Beamer, United Airlines Flight 93, Sept. 11, 2001
 
airportplan
Posts: 322
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2004 12:36 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 4:46 am

Quoting Luv2fly (Reply 9):
Really then explain what Nordstroms, Saks and Macys are still doing being open for business?

These retailer have been hammered in recent years by the Walmarts and Targets of the world just like the legacy airline have been hammered by Southwest and Jetblue. It sad to say but in the US it come down to the lowest price.
 
airportplan
Posts: 322
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2004 12:36 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 4:54 am

Lower airline prices (and lower service) and fierce competition have completely changed the way that people travel in the US. For better or worse no one uses the bus or train. Everyone except for the very, very poor can pay for a $69, $79, $99, $149 or $199 dollar plane ticket to travel to the next state, across the country or even accross the Atlantic. Ryanair and Easy Jet which are doing the same in Europe.
 
travelin man
Posts: 3240
Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2000 10:04 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 5:34 am

I've flown in Coach "domestically" in Europe, and the experience on LH, LX, and KL was hardly different than that of a domestic flight on AA, UA, or DL.

The big difference, IMO, is on an International Business Class flight. The domestics just don't compete that well against the international carriers.

I've flown UA, AA, DL, US, HP, WN, B6, CO, VS, LH, LX, KL, TN, QF, and BA.

And, in some respects, US carriers have European carriers beat (I'm talking the LCCs). B6 and WN surpass FR or EasyJet in my opinion.
 
supa7E7
Posts: 1360
Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 2:05 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 6:17 am

People in every country want what the USA consumers have. No one else on the planet has such travel possibilities.

To say the USA is low brow because it has LCCs.... just wait. It may turn out the entire world (which is generally poorer than the USA) will also enjoy cheap flights. Maybe the bulk of the US airline system is a symptom of its high standards of living.

Finally, the USA airlines are primarily oriented at its _massive_ domestic market, not international. As such, international standards are not very relevant. Airlines are glorified train systems that take place in the sky, because the US is slow to invest in actual high-speed rail, as other countries have. The only comparable situation is Europe. It, too, has LCCs, none of which is well known for superior service. Meanwhile, the flag carriers of Europe remain confined basically to international flights (Air France for example).

Why would you compare Air France to American Airlines? They are completely different mechanisms. Different purposes. One is a domestic airline with a minority of international missions, and one is almost exclusively international. In short, there is no reason to compare the US airline system to others in the world. There is no valid comparison to be made. The US is lackluster in many respects, but in airlines, it is the undisputed leader in scope, ambition and capability. It may be that good service is not compatible with the harsh competition and wide scope that distinguishes the US airline system. Good service lost the race, but in the rest of the world, the race can't even get off the ground. Don't be too quick to say because the US has unique challenges, that reflects a poor outcome of things. Instead my view is the US is the only country large and prosperous enough to dedicate so little priority to airline service.
"Who's to say spaceships aren't fine art?" - Phil Lesh
 
Tango-Bravo
Posts: 2941
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2001 1:04 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:10 am

Quoting FlyDeltaJets87 (Reply 14):
This is probably why the legacies are struggling though. The market is there for those who wish to pay a little more for better service. Problem is, it's not as large as the legacies want their company to be.

Excellent observation. The overcapacity myth in the U.S. becomes fact if revised and clarified to something like: "there are too many 'full service' legacy airline seats in the U.S. chasing too few pax willing to pay for the true costs of the services they offer on a sustained basis." For now, with the U.S. economic "boom" (driven by unsustainable consumer debt), this reality is being temporarily masked by an endless supply of free-spending business and leisure travelers.

The downturn in the U.S. economy lurking just around the proverbial corner (with U.S. consumers currently spending 102% of their incomes, it's not a matter of if, but when and how severe the downturn will be) will jolt the legacies and their wishful-thinking legacy-lover minions back to the consequences of the real overcapacity issue in the U.S.

Not that there is no market in the U.S. for "full sevice/with frills" domestic airline service; just not enough pax willing to pay the true costs of service that can actually be differentiated with the product offered by U.S. LCCs to support the present herd of U.S. legacy airlines when the U.S. economy comes down from its present debt-induced high. It is doubtful, however, that any of the U.S. legacies will reverse the dumbing down of their product and actually give pax willing to pay more the improved service in the Y cabin that would rightfully be expected by the small segment of the market who are willing to pay more -- provided they get more service than they receive on the U.S. LCCs.
 
nzrich
Posts: 1105
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2005 9:51 pm

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 10:01 am

Its funny how a smile and friendly service can make all the differnce in a flight ..That is where most NON American carriers leave American Carriers for dead..

A smile and good service costs nothing ..

Actually i have had some great service on a American Carrier .. Had a flight on US Airways and the service was amazing ..The total opposite you usually expect from an American Carrier.. If the service on those flights with US Airways was the normal in the USA travelling would be a breeze ..
"Pride of the pacific"
 
supa7E7
Posts: 1360
Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 2:05 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 1:38 pm

There is a difference between being a flag carrier of your country, and being just one of 5,000 mainline crews flying that day in America. Maybe American crews are the least special because they do the most flights.
"Who's to say spaceships aren't fine art?" - Phil Lesh
 
nzrich
Posts: 1105
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2005 9:51 pm

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 8:27 pm

Quoting Supa7E7 (Reply 21):
There is a difference between being a flag carrier of your country, and being just one of 5,000 mainline crews flying that day in America. Maybe American crews are the least special because they do the most flights.

Most airlines work their Crews hard if anything the American crews have it a bit easier as they have better laws and rules regarding hours they can fly ..
Like most European airlines as well..
"Pride of the pacific"
 
Paul
Posts: 514
Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:59 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:10 pm

The answer to the predicament is to abolish the totally absurd tipping culture in the US. It trully pisses of the rest of the world when we travel to the US.

I'm damned if I am going to tip someone a minimum of 18% for serving me a burger and fries. I know that waiters earn a pittence, but why the hell should the consumer pay for it. Especially when the fat-cat management get away with murderously low overheads (staff costs). It is simply not acceptable!

However, I still love America!

Paul
Veni, vidi, vici.
 
sprout5199
Posts: 1681
Joined: Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:26 am

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:17 pm

Quoting Supa7E7 (Reply 18):

Very well said. One of the best statements about the US airlines VS All others.


Dan in Jupiter
 
Boeing7E7
Posts: 5512
Joined: Sat Jul 31, 2004 9:35 pm

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:20 pm

Quoting Jetdeltamsy (Reply 1):
Flag carriers frequently have (or used to have) government "investment" which allows them to continue offering things US carriers can no longer afford.

Actually, it was more a regulated fare environment that made possible a reasonable level of creature comforts vs. investment. You get enough mergers in their coupled with an econmic downturn and re-regulation may not be too far around the corner. The industry can't sustain a significant hit. The margins are far too thin.
 
LMP737
Posts: 6156
Joined: Wed May 08, 2002 4:06 pm

RE: US Airlines Quantity Over Quality

Sat Dec 16, 2006 8:32 am

Quoting BillReid (Thread starter):
So you DL or US or AA or UA or CO or NW employees try to explain to me how I will get anything short of junk or third world service on our merged products.

You're probably asking the wrong people for two reasons. Reason one the question you ask is a "big picture" type question. The average airline employee is focused on their little part of the operation. What they know about the "big picture" is a bit limited. Second reason most airline employees don't want a merger for the simple reason they are the ones who get to deal with the problems created by them. While the people who came up with the idea in the first place walk off into the sunset with a wad of cash.
Never take financial advice from co-workers.

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