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I’ve long believed that the American airline industry’s record of customer service is the worst out there. I don’t mean nice airline personnel don’t exist. Of course they do. But the industry, the companies, inflicts a long list of irrational indignities upon its captive customers.

Some airlines demand inordinate change fees even when you arrive unexpectedly early and simply want to take another available earlier-than-booked flight. Makes no sense.

Baggage fees keep going up, as was announced in today’s news. And not only up but up a lot. This only results in passengers taking more “carry-on” luggage with them to the plane where the rest of us stand in lines waiting for their bags to be checked—why does it cost to check a bag at the registration desk, but it doesn’t cost to check the same bag at the plane?

Or passengers carry-on too-large and too-many bags, than attempt to jam them in overhead compartments. Doesn’t work. Meanwhile, the rest of us captives stand and wait.

I have a Delta Sky Miles account, a frequent-flier mileage program that's supposed to reward me for my loyalty to the airline. In some ways it does, like a free upgrade to first class from time to time.

But here’s the kicker: I pay money for my tickets and thus earn miles. I theoretically “own” these miles. They are mine to give away, for example, to nonprofit causes. But if I want to transfer these miles to a friend or family member—remember, these are miles I earned from tickets I purchased—I must pay an exorbitant “transfer fee.” Recently I checked into this and discovered that I’d be required to pay $280 to transfer enough miles for a “free ticket.” Ridiculous. Irritating.

Except for a drink and a peanut bag, airlines charge for meals unless you fly first class. Why? Why not simply add $5 or even $10 to a ticket and cover this cost? Airlines say it’s because not all passengers want the meal. Maybe, but my guess is that most would be willing to pay the bundled rate rather than be nickel and dimed to death by these kinds of avoidable traveling irritants.

Meanwhile, international airlines serve the meals, even wine, offer free newspapers, and treat their customers, captive though they may be, like the airline actually hoped the customer might return.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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