USAToday reported last month on the results of a DOT study that was the first review of airline customer service since 2001. The report acknowledges improved performance by the airlines, and a partial recovery from the problems created in a post 9/11 environment.
Auditors for the Inspect General spent the last year examining how airlines treat passengers whose flights are overbooked, canceled or delayed, disabled passengers, and passengers trying to redeem frequent-flier miles for free seats on flights. They found that information airlines give passengers about flight delays and cancellations is often vague and more than forty percent of the time, gate agents don’t give reasons for delays or make regular announcements. Twelve out of fifteen airlines reviewed are not complying with their own training requirements for employees who deal with disabled passengers and nine do not consistently follow their own policies for paying passengers who voluntarily give up seats on overbooked flights.
The report recommends that the DOT penalize carriers who “consistently advertise flight schedules that are unrealistic, regardless of the reason.” It also recommends that the DOT consider new rules to standardize public reports of frequent-flier mileage redemptions. Passengers can’t make informed decisions about which frequent-flier plans to join because airlines don’t explain policies or report annual frequent-flier mile redemptions in a consistent way, the report says.