2017 has been a particularly illuminating year for airlines and the way in which they treat their customers… See some of our previous posts about this topic:
- Airline tricks part 1: 7 cost-cutting tactics at the expense of passengers
- Airline tricks part 2: what to look out for when claiming for delays, cancellations and over-bookings
- An exceptionally bad month for airlines – how United Airline’s PR disaster put the entire aviation industry in extreme public scrutiny
But we aren’t the only ones being unfairly exploited: airline employees, including pilots, are no longer completely satisfied either. An article recently published by Air Cargo Eye explains the growing dissatisfaction among commercial airline pilots, with most complaining about “unfavourable rosters, low pay, non-payment of wages, reduced per diems, cheaper overnight accommodation and reduced status.”
Recent protests and strikes in the US exemplify the unrest. Earlier this month, industrial action by a pilot union led to the cancellation of a number of Spirit Airlines flights and subsequent outrage at Fort Lauderdale airport. Watch the chaotic scene unfold below:
So, what is happening to the aviation industry and what’s likely to happen from here?
A correlation can be made between increased demand for low cost flights and cost cutting. Of course, the only way for airlines to offer competitive prices is to cut as many corners as possible, which directly affects both their customers and employees alike. To offer rock-bottom prices, airlines resort to overbooking flights, shorter turnaround times and more automated processing, which evidently results in more flight irregularities such as flight delays, cancellations and over-bookings.
The worst part? We’re allowing this to happen, and the industry itself isn’t suffering.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently announced global passenger traffic for February showed an extremely strong demand growth to begin in 2017. In fact, international passenger demand increased by 5.8% compared to February last year. European carriers in particular saw an increase in demand by 6.5% compared to 2016. Even despite the recent electronics ban and poor customer service, it’s clear this industry is extremely resilient and demand remains constant. The bottom line? Airlines are getting away with it.
Is there any good news?
Well, the good news is that we can only expect prices to continue to drop – we’ll just have to drop our expectations too. And, thankfully, United Airlines has actually come up with a plan to make sure passenger treatment improves and the mistakes of the past do not happen again. These steps include allowing employees to move passengers who are involuntarily bumped onto flights with different airlines. United now also clearly outlines the selection criteria for involuntarily bumping passengers:
“Passengers without a seat assignment get bumped first, followed by fare class and estimated fare paid, followed by time of check-in, followed by frequent-flier status. Those with special needs do not get bumped.” (Source: USA Today).
Further efforts by the airline include:
- Increasing the maximum compensation for voluntary bumps to $10,000
- Promising to be more cautious of overbooking flights where it has experienced difficulty in getting passengers to voluntarily leave the aircraft (eg. late night flights where there are no alternatives)
- No longer using law enforcement to remove passengers (unless it’s a matter of safety)
Our advice to avoid getting bumped:
Check-in early and choose your seat. If feasible, start booking flights with the same airline and begin clocking up your frequent flyer points. And if you are unfortunate enough to get bumped, know your rights and lodge a claim with us. We’ll take care of it and ensure you’re legally compensation as you should be.