Modern technology is working to bring people together in ways often eliminating face-to-face interaction. This is valuable and likely to grow in impact. At the same time, people still depend upon commercial aviation to meet their travel needs, and no matter the reasons for the travel. Passengers generally accept the reality of security delays in airports but, and increasingly, consumer complaints regarding airline efficiency are reaching unprecedented levels. Airlines respond by offering a range of deals and discounts to compensate unhappy customers, yet this by no means addresses the fundamental problem that they are frequently failing to deliver services as scheduled, and for customers for whom that scheduling is paramount. Airlines are collapsing, the problem worsens, and a dramatic revision of airline operations is mandated. It is seen below that the substantial problem of airline inefficiency can only be eliminated when the airlines accept that, safety side, the main concern of passengers is “getting there” as scheduled.
A remarkable reality of modern living is that, in an era in which technology enhances virtually all human efforts, the increasing reliance on air transportation is increasingly problematic, at best. No faster transit exists and the airline industry, a massive commercial force, spends inestimable amounts of money to attract customers away from competitors, just as those customers express levels of dissatisfaction at unprecedented levels. Frustration mounts regarding airline inefficiency, which threatens airline survival and largely prompts only minimal compensations to appease unhappy customers. The situation is worsening, and most remarkable of all is how airlines continue to fail to address the actual cause of passenger complaints. As the following supports, the significant problem of airline inefficiency can only be addressed when the airlines understand that, safety side, the primary concern of passengers is “getting there” as scheduled.
The Problem and Related Factors
The most striking quality of the problem is the clear nature of it, as well as the inexplicable airline responses in no way addressing the problem of inabilities to carry passengers to destinations as scheduled. Commercial flying is a complicated affair, certainly, and delays inevitably occur outside of the airlines’ control. At the same time, passengers comprehend this, and complaints are rarely lodged under such circumstances. The evidence suggests that, generally speaking, passengers accept unavoidable causes for delays such as dangerous flying weather. Far less acceptable are lengthy taxi routes on departures and arrivals, “stacked” flights often translating to hours on the runways, lack of readiness at the destination airports, and staffing problems with airline crews (Bud & Ison, 2016, p. 230). Airlines tend to seek to placate passengers with free or discounted food and beverage items, upgrades in class, hotel packages, and other amenities. These, however, are consistently unimportant because they do not address the critical problem: “Airlines fail to deliver nearly a third of their customers to their desired destinations at, or even reasonably close to their scheduled arrival times” (Reed, 2018). Destination and timing, the essential purposes of the flying, are unreliable to an extent that would, and has, resulted in airline bankruptcies (NRC, 2003, p. 1). Exacerbating this is that airlines as a rule do not classify lateness below fifteen minutes as such (Reed, 2018). Not unexpectedly, the consequences include increasing customer complaint reports, lessened business, and airlines struggling to survive. Solutions are necessary because millions must travel by air for business and for personal reasons, and because untold numbers of employees rely on the industry itself for their own survival.
Solutions, Potential Objection, and Rebuttal
It seems strange, but one way of solving the problem of airline inefficiency lies, not with the industry, but with the consumer. As early as 2003, research indicated that communication technology was already have a negative impact on air travel. In plain terms, video conferencing and Internet interacting eliminate the need for a great deal of face-to-face contact. This applies, moreover, in personal matters as well as business (NRC, 2003, p. 8). Consequently, the problem of lateness, which is the passenger’s problem, may be easily addressed by the individual’s creating other means of interaction. Similarly, vacation destinations may be changed to those accessible by car or boat. A better solution, nonetheless, would be the airlines investing less in conciliatory measures and more in developing systems focused on schedule parameters and punctuality. As noted, the industry’s ultimate survival depends on this, as: “Service failures increase customer defection rates resulting in market share changes” (Keiningham et al, 2016, p. 420). Then, technology may effectively enable more efficient scheduling encompassing all variables. Moreover, many delay factors are failures of personnel efficiency, as in neglecting to properly schedule crew staff and arrival technicians. In plain terms, professional managerial attention is all that is required to ease, or eliminate, such causes for delays.
It may be argued that too many unforeseeable factors contribute to airline inefficiency, and no system may properly compensate for the unexpected. Crew members become ill; security issues arise at departure and arrival sites; and equipment itself may present problems. Certainly, some delays will occur, no matter the steps airlines take. At the same time, the vast majority may be avoided through computer modeling adjusted to encompass all variables (NRC, 2003, p. 67). The airlines must begin to err on the side of caution, rather than promoting scheduling only to entice more passengers. Then, as noted, expenses in increasing efficiency would be more than countered by greater consumer confidence and the lessened need to compensate those many passengers angered by incompetence and extreme lateness in both departures and arrivals.
Ultimately, it is wholly irrational that the multi-billion-dollar airline industry continues to disappoint the consumer base on which it relies. As this is ongoing, further airline bankruptcies will certainly occur. Growing airline responses of apologies and compensatory measures cannot rationally or ethically address this pervasive failure. What is needed is scheduling that is reliable and realistic, and because that schedule is typically the passenger’s greatest concern. The massive problem of airline inefficiency can only be solved when the airlines understand “getting there” on time is the chief goal of their customers.
- Bud, L., & Ison, S. (2016). Air Transport Management: An International Perspective. New
York, NY: Routledge.
- Keiningham, T. L., Morgeson III, F. V., Aksoy, L., & Williams, L. (2014). Service failure
severity, customer satisfaction, and market share: An examination of the airline industry. Journal of Service Research, 17(4), 415-431.
- National Research Council (NRC). (2003). Securing the Future of U.S. Air Transportation: A
System in Peril. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.
- Reed, D. (26 July 2018). “American Airlines Is Sorry You’re Upset With Them, Just Not Sorry
Enough To Fix The Real Problem.” Forbes. Retrieved from