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Why People Hate Airlines

Sunday, May 22, 2011, 14:31 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

The Air Canada ExperienceRare is the airline traveler who hasn’t had a negative experience at one time or another, whether it’s a weather-related delay, unexpected mechanical failure, in-flight turbulence, a screaming child on board, or any number of other snags that can arise. Frequent flyers could add many more to the list. Some such problems are beyond anyone’s control, others are due to somebody’s honest mistake, and that’s not to mention the panoply of inconveniences caused solely by ridiculous government regulations. But occasionally the problems are created—on purpose—by the airlines, as I learned in this story from a couple weeks ago:

Lynn-Ann Baumeister and her husband Roland’s checked bags were removed froma[nAir Canada] flight in February, as they were waiting for the 93-seat Embraer 190 to depart from Kelowna, B.C., to Toronto.

“We had no idea, because nobody told us what they were doing,” said Baumeister.

The couple were later told the bags were excluded to keep the aircraft within legal weight and fuel limits, a situation referred to in the industry as a “bulk-out.” They ended up without luggage for days while on vacation in Barbados.

The industry term for Air Canada did to these and other passengers is “bulk-out.” It goes a long way toward explaining the phenomenon of “lost” luggage, and you can bet the farm that Air Canada isn’t the only airline that does it. But why do airlines think it’s necessary? The reasons given in the article don’t pass muster because they fail to explain why it is done without notification to the passengers. It’s as if the airlines just don’t want to hear you gripe until it’s too late for you to change your mind and get your money back.

The $100 limit on compensation for “lost bags” shouldn’t apply because the bags weren’t lost, at least not initially, and they wouldn’t have been lost at all if they hadn’t been taken from the flight in the first place. This was a preventable situation that was created by deliberate actions taken according to airline policies. In other professions, it would be called malpractice.

Meanwhile, airlines don’t bother to consistently enforce sensible rules that would help avoid overweight baggage, such as limits on the size and number of carry-on bags. When that isn’t enough, passengers should be allowed to voluntarily bump themselves—and their bags—to another flight, much like what is done now when flights are overbooked.

There is one single reason why practices like this exist at all and will continue: because the customers put up with it. If enough people complained loudly enough or simply refused to fly, they would clean up their act. But that won’t happen, because nobody wants to be inconvenienced. So we will continue to be held captive by the airlines, who will persist with customer unfriendly practices like bulk-outs because they know we’ll take it.

Categories: business & economics
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