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Travelers' Aid

Customer Service Committments and the Skies
December 15, 2000

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Tony: Rudy, it makes me wonder - and this is a good question for our Traveler's Aid segment this week - are things getting better in the skies? I remember that snow storm back in January, 1999 when over 6,000 people were stranded onboard airplanes.

Rudy: Yeah, Tony. The snowstorm that hit paralyzed air travel for a number of days. People were sometimes a week late getting back from their Christmas holidays. In fact, Congress was up in arms - one Senator proposed a passenger bill of rights. That's how angry people were.

Tony: So what happened?

Rudy: Well, in order to head off the legislation, the airlines promised they'd do better. One year ago this weekend all the major airlines put into place new policies they called their "Customer Service Commitments." You haven't heard much about these lately, but they were a big deal at the time.

Tony: Yeah, didn't airlines promise to do things like call you if your flight was delayed?

Rudy: Yes they did, among other things. Each airline had it's own set of "new pledges," which in most cases, simply reiterated policies that were already in place. So Delta, for example, said its reservations agents would let callers know about cheaper flight options and call you if a flight was delayed more than 2 hours in advance. United Airlines promised to have more agents available to re-book passengers who are delayed, or whose flights are cancelled.

Tony: So, what's happened in the year this "Customer Service Commitment" has been in effect? Are people happy now?

Rudy: Well, like all things, it depends on who you ask. Back in June, at the six month anniversary of the Commitment, the US Department of transportation issued a report that said the airlines were "making a clear and genuine effort at strengthening the attention paid to customer service, but bottom line results are mixed." And this was before another summer of record delays, record cancellations. New labor problems at United that forced it to cancel thousands of flights a month.

Tony: And we've been talking for the last several weeks on this show about more labor problems at United, and also at Northwest and Delta.

If you'd like us to address your travel questions or concerns, send us an email. Or, you can snail-mail them in. The address is The Savvy Traveler, in care of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90007. Or call me at 888-SAV-TRAV.


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