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Ear to the Ground

Air Travel Is Getting More Aggravating and Complicated

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Posted on Jul 11, 2014

Photo by Anne Worner (CC BY 2.0)

More stratified levels of service, workers who are underpaid and overworked, and a climate that is increasingly hostile to human activity—the experience of privatized air travel worldwide is rapidly deteriorating. Journalist Scott Smith lists six ways how.

Smith writes at Quartz:

1. Climate change-driven travel breakdown

The weather was at the center of the issue, and air travel authorities took some pre-emptive action to avoid worse problems. However, the conditions that are throwing more turbulent thunderstorms, snow, early hurricanes, dust—in short stirring the atmosphere more violently due to increased surface heating, shifting weather patterns and other consequences of climate change—are going to get worse over coming decades, according to scientists. Expect bumpier flights, more diversions and delays, and the higher costs that come with them in the future, particularly in the coastal and southern regions of the US where population is growing while flight schedules are generally shrinking.

2. Overworked and understaffed airlines

With the boom in consolidation among US air carriers have come some inevitable staffing cuts. Skift reported last year that US DOT data showed a net decline in airline employment over the past decade, even as costs have gone up and service quality declined. American (the most recent culprit for me) has cut staff by over 8% in the past year as it pushed for its merger with USAirways. Evidence on the ground, taking the form of a boom in self-service kiosks in airports, signals an industry strategy of pushing out more human interaction in favor of technology.

Unfortunately, these fairly dumb devices aren’t equipped to deal with anything other than the basic flight reservation modification and check-in. So they can’t support hundreds of stranded or delayed travelers staring at unmanned desks, as some of American’s lines at LaGuardia were in my situation. The same goes with the rental car industry, also moving to greater use of automated agent kiosks to deal with customers, which again, fail to offer ways to deal with non-standard situations.

Read what Smith says about growing service level stratification, the failure of regional hub-and-spoke models, exploitative variable pricing and social media as customer care here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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