Airlines' Self-Improvements Don't Include the Big D

  • Share
  • Read Later

Senators Harry Reid (l) and Ron Wyden respond to airline report

Ever since the airlines went in front of Congress with 12 voluntary customer-satisfaction "commitments" so legislators would set aside their threat of a legislated, enforceable "Passenger Bill of Rights," the Department of Transportation has been keeping an eye on how the airlines are doing.

And after 12 months, with 40 members from the DOT inspector general's office working on the case, the diligent watchdogs have their report: Some things, like late-baggage delivery and tending to passengers' essential needs during long on-runway delays, are getting better. But that which irks flyers most — the delays themselves, and the way they're reported to the stranded — are still a big problem.

Your tax dollars at work, folks.

"Since air travelers in 2000 stood a greater than one-in-four chance of their flight being delayed, canceled or diverted, we believe the airlines should go further," the report said. That doesn't mean actually preventing delays — longer-term improvements like better air-traffic control, more realistic flight slates and more runways won't be in place for a few more summers, the report noted — but simply passing along the news to the customers still on the ground.

For instance: In one-fifth of 550 delayed flights observed by the inspectors, the flight information display system showed that a flight was on time when, in fact, the flight had been delayed for more than 20 minutes, the report said.

As Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) put it Monday, "What we have here is a failure to communicate, communicate honestly about scheduling. A failure to communicate honestly about delays and cancellations; a failure to communicate honestly about bumping passengers from flights."

But no shortage of government studies that reveal only what is already patently obvious.