Performance Numbers Improving, Though Still Far From
If your Thanksgiving plans include a flight on American
Airlines, you may find comfort in knowing your chances of
having a crummy travel experience are slightly lower than they were
a year ago.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports its hometown airline is
slowly climbing out from the cellar of customer service rankings,
which for some time have put the world's second-largest airline
(the newly-merged Delta is now the biggest) in the company of
industry whipping boy US Airways when it came to delayed and
cancelled flights, lost luggage, and general travel malaise.
American hasn't magically transformed into a
wunder-airline; its on-time rankings are still among the
worst of the 11 large airlines tracked by the Department of
Transportation. However, it's no longer THE worst -- American
ranked ninth in September and October, besting Delta and
Continental in flights arriving more-or-less on-time.
The carrier has fared better in the area of mishandled bags, as
well... though it's not apparent whether that improvement stems
from a change in the airline's practices -- American has installed
new, more accurate baggage sorting equipment at several
airports -- or the fact travelers are carrying more with them in
the wake of the airline's recent $15 fee for a single
More reassuring is the news American received 40 percent fewer
complaints last month, compared with October 2007. Alas, those
numbers may also be skewed... as the airline is also flying fewer
planes, thanks to steep capacity cuts implemented after the summer
travel season. Fewer planes means fewer passengers flying -- about
9 percent less than October 2007, according to American -- and
fewer passengers mean fewer chances to screw up.
Still, American's chief of customer service is encouraged by the
upward trend. "We know we still have a long way to go," said Mark
Mitchell, Managing Director-Customer Experience. "But we think we
may have turned a corner."
That sentiment is generally echoed by travel analyst Terry
Trippler... who also cautioned American still has a long way to go
before it's considered an elite carrier among US airlines.
"It takes a long time to turn a big ship around, and American is
a very big ship," said Trippler. "And that's going to be their
challenge... [but] I do think passengers are seeing improvements
out there, not just on American but on most of the airlines."
American can also take heart in the example of another.
Perennial underachiever US Airways has turned around its operation,
too -- that airline is now near the top in on-time performance.