Airlines dominate Most Hated Companies list

most hated companiesThis week, The Atlantic used The American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) data to compile a list of the 19 Most Hated Companies in America. Joining Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Facebook all with a score of 64 or more out of 100 are even lower-scoring American Airlines (63), United Airlines (61), and US Airways (61). Worst of all air carriers? Delta Air Lines scoring an ultra low 56 on the index.

On Delta, The Atlantic notes:

“Complaints include additional costs for food, beverages and baggage fees. The airline collected more than $952 million in baggage fees from flyers in 2010, almost twice as much as any other airline carrier.

Since acquiring Northwest airlines in 2008, Delta’s consumer satisfaction score has plunged. According to ACSI, a big merger in service companies usually have a negative impact on customer services in the short-term, because of organization issues. Delta’s rating dropped another 6 points this year.”

The results add to concerns noted by Gadling back in April when we reported on America’s Meanest Airlines after 2011’s Airline Quality Report came out. Those results:Meanest major carrier: United Airlines
Meanest regional carrier: American Eagle
Most complained about airline: Delta Air Lines
Most likely to be unsafe: Jetblue
Most likely to overcharge for bags: Delta Airlines/ US Airways / Continental
Most likely to bump you: American Eagle
Most likely to be late: Comair
Most likely to mishandle your bag: American Eagle

One wonders if there might be a link between companies that are hated and companies that are mean.

Are there any companies on this list that you hate? Tell your story in the comments section…

Flickr photo by Loren Sztajer

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Tom Stuker becomes first frequent flyer to pass 10 million miles, United celebrates

Ryan Bingham exists in real life, and his name is Tom Stuker. Mr. Stuker, an automotive consultant based in Chicago has been flying United for over 20 years, and this Saturday afternoon, somewhere between Los Angeles and Chicago he officially crossed the line over 10 million frequent flyer miles.

To celebrate, the folks at United hosted a private celebration at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, shutting down a section of a C concourse Red Carpet Club for a celebration with Mr. Stuker’s family, United CEO Jeff Smisek, Mileage Plus President Jeff Foland and a few dozen people from the community.

For his part, Tom Stuker doesn’t seem the least bit weary from his 10 million miles of travel. At just under six feet tall and with a steady, affable smile, he emerged from the Los Angeles flight full of energy and to the cheers of scores of waiting media and friends. In the Red Carpet Club he floated around the room mingling with assorted, eager miletalkers and accepting pats on the back from the wayward executive or marketing agent, effortlessly smiling as the media soaked up his glee.

Among the gestures that United made in recognition of his efforts came a single-edition, titanium Global Services membership card, a scale mockup of the upcoming United 787 and a framed certificate stating his achievement. The most impressive gift, however, was Tom Stuker’s name on the side of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, similar to the achievement that Ryan Bingham received in Up in the Air.

Perhaps most moving was the humility with which Mr. Stuker accepted his praise. His speech, hand written on three pages of wide rule notebook paper, was a reflection on his time with the airline and a heartfelt thank you to all of the staff with whom he had become friends over the years. He spoke of the difficulty during the United bankruptcy and the subsequent merger, moving himself nearly to tears on several occasions, but remaining gracious and optimistic the entire time.

The underlying theme of Mr. Stuker’s speech, however, kept returning: it was not only a milestone for one frequent flyer but rather for the entire airline — years of work building one of the world’s largest airlines, weathering a merger, a rough economy and an ultra competitive market. For everyone in the room there was much to celebrate, and for this one brief afternoon there were smiles on the faces of Jeff Smisek, the ramp workers and the flight attendants alike.

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[Editor’s note: it shall be noted that Tom Stuker flew all of his 10M miles on United while Ryan Bingham from Up in the Air earned his miles in various means — but we still think that the comparison is bang on. Judge away.]

Twin United pilots throw opening pitches in Chicago’s crosstown classic

The rivalry between the Cubs and the White Sox is no doubt one of the greatest in the sports community, each teams reflecting the vastly different attitudes and culture between the north and south sides of Chicago. Despite the tension, however, there’s always room for some joviality, and this year, United jumped into the fray by bringing a pair of its identical twin pilots down to U.S. Cellular field to throw the first pitches.

Identical twin pilots you say? Yes indeed. Turns out, the Rayl brothers had parallel careers at United and Continental respectively, and now that the airlines have merged they work for the same company. It’s almost like our resident pilot Kent Wien and his brother Kurt at American Airlines. Only identical. And slightly creepier.

Airline fees are worth more than Facebook

Airlines, Facebook and money

Outside the travel world, everyone’s marveling at the prospect of a Facebook IPO, which could be valued at as much as $100 billion. So, what are we missing while we fawn over Mark Zuckerberg’s creation? How about the slow, stodgy, ugly airline industry. Known for a painful user experience and a steady decline of free features, the likes of Delta and American Airlines are outdoing the hottest online property in the world simply by annoying their customers.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation‘s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, baggage and reservation change fees brought the U.S. airline industry a whopping $5.7 billion last year. Delta picked up close to a billion dollars on baggage fees alone, which doesn’t include what they yanked from the wallets of soldiers returning home from combat. The largest airline in the country also brought in approximately $700 million from reservation change fees.

American Airlines, the fourth largest airline in the United States, came in second in both categories, with $580.7 million in baggage fees and $471.4 million in reservation change fees.The particular beauty of these fees is that they are basically found money. Some passengers need to check bags, and the airlines have to invest in the overhead required to meet this demand. It’s an expense that can’t be avoided. With this fee, they monetized what they’d have to pay anyway. The same is the case for reservation change fees.

The top five earners of baggage fees in 2010 are:

1. Delta: $952.3 million

2. American: $580.7 million

3. US Airways: $513.6 million

4. Continental: $341.6 million

5. United: $313.2 million

Unsurprisingly, the top five earners of reservation change fees don’t look much different:

1. Delta: $698.6 million

2. American: $471.4 million

3. United: $321.5 million

4. US Airways: $253.1 million

5. Continental: $237.4 million

No doubt, activist groups will be up in arms shortly. And airline employees will lament the fact that their executives are so richly compensated while they have endured round after round of pay cuts and layoffs for years upon years.

Frankly, I offer my congratulations to the airline industry. Yes, they are soaking us. Passengers are a captive audience, particularly on routes with limited coverage, and we sometimes have no choice but to pay. The airlines are using this to generate profitable growth for their shareholders, which is their primary responsibility.

So, what about Facebook? The company is estimated to pull in revenues of somewhere above $4 billion this year, most of it from advertising. It is pretty interesting that the popular social network is annoying its customers as a way to generate revenue, just like the airlines!

Who knew that pissing off your target market was an awesome business model?

[photo by Tobin Black via Flickr]

United Airlines celebrates 85 years of flying with a retro livery Airbus A320

At a special event at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, United Airlines took to a stage to unveil a special Airbus A320 repainted with a retro livery.

During the event, CEO Jeff Smisek also honored some of his colleagues with the longest history of representing United. The 12 staff members represented a combined 450 years of service. One of the longest serving employees is Captain Jack Lampe, who has been flying with United since 1961.

Also present were current flight attendants dressed in United Airlines outfits from the past. The 1970’s era jet livery was selected by airline employees as their favorite paint job. The plane will fly around the country, making its way to employee celebrations.

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