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The ASTA wants to make sure the airlines give quality service to every passenger

by Linda and Don Overend

Have you taken an airline flight lately? In coach class? A flight of more than two hours? If you have, then you are sure to have noticed something about your flight.

Before you boarded, you may have noticed that if the flight wasn't delayed or canceled, it was oversold, and there was a big hassle deciding who would be bumped and who would be permitted to board.

Then the chaotic boarding process, with everyone hunting for a place for their carry-on luggage in aisles so narrow you can't pass anyone. Finally you're in your seat, which seems to be about 10 inches wide, and your knees are up around your chin, as there is only leg room for a pygmy.

When they announce "dinner is served" on a long flight, it may come in a box or a sack, and may contain a cold, embalmed sandwich and a cookie, or, if you're lucky, an apple. Silverware? How about plastic ware and, if you spring for a bottle of wine ($4, please), a plastic glass designed for a soda. Sound familiar?

In front of the drawn curtains you will find "enhanced" service in business and first classes for people who are willing to pay three or four times as much for a ticket as you have.

These may be businessmen on expense accounts or frequent flyers on upgrades, but they are often people who so dislike the indignity of coach class that they will travel less frequently and pay the extra tariff.

The airlines use the public airspace and public facilities to profit from the transport of millions of people who have no alternative but to use their services. This would seem to obligate the airlines to comply with minimum standards of courtesy, comfort, convenience and service. All passengers should be treated with respect and awareness that they are the owners of the public airspace.

To the end that the airlines meet these minimum obligations, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has proposed an "Air Travelers Bill of Rights" which they intend to promote to consumer groups, legislators and the public in an effort to draw attention to the degrading quality of airline service and to stimulate correction of these conditions by the airline industry.

The ASTA Air Traveler's Bill of Rights.

As an airline passenger, you have the right to:

?Truth in advertised prices, schedules and seat availability.

?Equal access to unbiased, comparative travel information and all fare and service options.

?A comfortable seat, reasonable space for carry-on luggage, healthy meals and clean, sanitary facilities, regardless of class of service.

?Timely and courteous assistance in making connections.

?Use all, part or none of the segments on any ticket purchased.

?Timely, complete and truthful information, and courteous assistance regarding delays, cancellations and equipment changes.

?Timely and courteous assistance for the disabled and unaccompanied children.

?Appropriate in-flight medical emergency assistance.

?Access to the courts and state consumer laws to resolve disputes with airlines.

With the price of airline tickets increasing, and the quality of airline service decreasing, perhaps it is time for all of us to demand that the airlines face their responsibility to the public and readjust their business goals to offer the everyday passenger the minimal rights and conveniences outlined in this bill of rights.

If you would like your voice heard in this matter, ask any ASTA-member travel agent for a ballot and survey. ASTA will keep the responses confidential and they will be used only as statistics to confirm consumer dissatisfaction with air travel.

(Linda and Don Overend are co-owners of Ozark World Travel, a full-service travel agency in Springfield.)

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Perhaps it is time for all of us to demand that airlines face their responsibility

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