epic airline fail

Any one of these is a bad sign for your airline:

  • won’t offer even a cup of water for less than $2
  • has ads on the tray tables
  • has discontinued all in-flight entertainment

If you’re doing all three, you’re US Airways.

Seriously… is there a companion to seatguru.com that says “with this airline, you’ll save $X, but you’ll lose Y” of legroom and have to put up with _____”? You’d think orbitz (or something like it) would want to integrate this kind of information into the reservation process, but I’ve never seen it, and would love to.

(Ed. later: forgot to mention that the method of advertising on tray tables claimed to be patented. Forgot to write down the patent number, but the closest I can come up with is this, which is another spectacularly bad example of what is wrong with the modern patent system.)

17 thoughts on “epic airline fail”

  1. bliz: sure. I mean, I actually even support charging for airline food; I think quality has greatly improved now that they have to earn my business. But if I’m going to pay several hundred dollars, or several hundred dollars + $20, it seems like there would be a better functioning market if I could actually find out beforehand what I’m getting for that money, since some airlines (like Virgin, for example) will give me a much better experience for roughly the same (or sometimes even better) price.

  2. Perhaps you should try flying in another country. None of the domestic US flights I’ve taken were particularly nice compared to others.

    Charging for airline food is a problem on some airlines. The first flight on a US airline I took was from LA to Montreal. As I wasn’t actually stopping in the US I didn’t have any US currency on me. This meant I went hungry, as they would only take US cash on that flight.

  3. Is it possible to explain why is it so hard for airlines to stay profitable, using supply-demand theory? In US, airlines industry supply is more than demand so prices drop and it forces airlines to do everything possible to stay afloat. Air travel has many alternatives (do not travel use video conferencing, travel by train/car). Right?

    This should actually force them to come up with real innovative ideas (while do not include starving passengers). It’s too bad airlines realized that there is no competition for selling water when passengers are flying on their plane at 30000 feet, so they charge you unreasonable price. What next charge for visiting bathroom?

  4. Is it not a legal requirement to be able to get a free galls of water in the USA?

    Over here in Europe, you are entitled to a free glass/cup of tap water if you request it, in case of medication etc.

    Charging for water? Why don’t they charge you to pee as well? (Patent Pending :) )

  5. @Phil

    “Is it not a legal requirement to be able to get a free
    galls of water in the USA?”

    I just looked up contract of carriage of United airlines, following is relevant part. It is not clear to me, if it is a legal requirement to provide free water, especially on domestic flights, under normal circumstances.

    Source: http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,2743,00.html

  6. Man, I need to check my spelling!

    My question is though, is it a basic right to be able to demand a glass of water from an establishment such as a bar or restaurant for no charge as long as the water is ‘tap’ water?

    If that is so, can the Airline modify your rights in such a way as to decline this right?

    Even on Ryanair over here, they will give you a cup of tap water if ask nicely, for free.

  7. I like how they also covered “squeegeeing” and “brushing” the advertisement onto the surface in claim 4 of the patent… yes, this is an indicator of what’s wrong with the current system. We NEED a modernized patent system – yesterday.

  8. I too was impressed by the quality of US Airways service on the way back to family in Detroit for Thanksgiving week. I was very happy I’d taken a water bottle with me to the airport (not actually intended for the flight), not simply telling them to throw it when I accidentally took it half-full through security but rather waiting for it to be returned to me emptied, and filling it before boarding my flight.

    In contrast, the flight back with United on a 767-300 was very good, and I did get a drink on it (two, actually, which seems a bit odd). I think it’s one of the Dreamliners or something like that, because the non-plebe cabins had the funky extra-space seating and reclining, and even economy had mini-TVs in the back of every seat (with headphones, too) with a live map displaying progress. That may just be the airplane, tho; apparently oversize checked luggage is now +$125, even above the initial $15/$25/whatever to have that piece of checked luggage in the first place. Thank goodness I’m pretty much done moving stuff, or I’d likely be looking into FedEx and UPS rates soon.

  9. Jeff: one of the airlines I flew recently (can’t remember which one) actually had a link to fedex from their website, advertising that fedex would pick up your luggage from your residence the day before the flight and deliver it to whereever you were going. I guess I’d assumed that charging all these fees made luggage profitable for the airlines, but if they are ‘outsourcing’ to fedex, that suggests that even with the fees luggage is a money-loser, which is mind-boggling.

    re: water: I’d doubt that providing water is legally required; why legally require something that everyone does voluntarily anyway? At least, until now…

  10. I’m pretty sure that was United, since I bought that ticket fairly recently. I find the luggage thing a bit weird, because it’s not like less luggage can translate into more tickets sold; I cannot believe these fees are the profit-maximizing bundle for US Airways. Then again, I typically make an effort not to check anything just to reduce hassle, so I’m not particularly affected by high luggage fees — at least, not normally.

  11. After merging with America West, they used the America West screens for a while to play commercials before taxi. Fun Fun.

    Luckily, there are often alternatives, unless you get stuck with them as a domestic leg of an international trip.

  12. Jeff: with less luggage on the plane, it will be lighter and use less fuel. There is also the cost of screening, loading and unloading the checked luggage, and for some fraction of cases the cost of finding the luggage when it gets lost. I’ve got no idea how these costs match up against what US airlines are charging passengers though.

    On the subject of water, it sounds like you’d have a right to complain given that the airport staff seem to do their best to stop you bringing water onto planes these days …

  13. Just wait. The airline business is seriously broken and will have to be fixed or it will implode soon. (Or get even more taxpayer help.)

    What other business can get away with so many dissatisfied customers? Every move they make makes customers more unhappy. There’s something very wrong with that!

  14. Stormy: the problem is that bankrupt airlines have a property-like right to hang on to their gates, making it difficult-to-impossible for new airlines to start up. If gates regularly came up for auction, so that new players could participate and snag gates, we’d have a lot better competition than we currently do. Until that happens… it’ll be a long, slow slog.

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