Big Old Jet Airliner...From Hell

Last year saw more bags lost or stolen, a decline in on-time performance, and a record number of people being bumped from flights. From an account of a new study about flying the friendly skies:

Last year, 6.50 bags were lost, stolen or damaged for every 1,000 passengers, compared with 6.06 in 2005....

On-time performance worsened last year, the report said, with 75.5 percent of flights arriving on time, compared with 77.3 percent in 2005....

The study found an increase in the number of passengers who were bumped or denied boarding because of oversold flights - 1.01 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers last year, compared with 0.89 per 10,000 in 2005.

Curiouser and curiouser: "Overall, complaints about the airlines last year held steady at about 0.88 complaints for every 100,000 passengers."

The study comes out of Nebraska University and Wichita State and is based on the Airline Quality Report, an annual report issued since 1991 that uses  Department of Transportation stats. More here.

What is to be done? Finish the job of deregulation started in the late '70s (thank you, Alfred Kahn!) and reduce useless red tape and government bureaucracy in air traffic control, foreign-ownership rules, and more. Just ask Robert W. Poole, founder of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason Online and the print mag, and an expert in all things aviation.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Well, I always say nothing improves customer satisfaction like a nice thick layer of regulation and bureaucracy.

  • ||

    I wonder which regulation is causing more bags to be lost?

    magical thinking. The market fairies.

  • Tym||

    The future of domestic air travel may be direct flights through small regional airports. The time hassle is much less than at a major hub and the hub and spoke system is just broke with all the new layers of bureacracy. This requires smaller planes.

    Embraer Rule of 70/110

  • ||

    I wonder which regulation is causing more bags to be lost?

    Regulations that prevent foreign ownership of US airlines prevent highly-profitable, service-oriented foreign airlines from competing in the US. The overall quality of serive in the US is far below what it could be (and that includes baggage handling).

  • ||

    carrick,

    Did the airlines become LESS foreign-owned when the rate of lost bags increased last year?

    I don't think they did.

  • ||

    Last year, 6.50 bags were lost, stolen or damaged for every 1,000 passengers, compared with 6.06 in 2005....

    Not good.

    On-time performance worsened last year, the report said, with 75.5 percent of flights arriving on time, compared with 77.3 percent in 2005....

    This means little. How late (or early) were the flights?

    The study found an increase in the number of passengers who were bumped or denied boarding because of oversold flights - 1.01 denied boardings per 10,000 passengers last year, compared with 0.89 per 10,000 in 2005.

    I don't care about this. I've never been bumped and probably never will. Why? Because I always check-in early. This is a perfect case of "You snooze, you lose." Also, I know people who try to get bumped so that they can get free tickets or other goodies. It is a bad thing for people on tight schedules. Although, why don't such people check-in early?

  • ||

    Did the airlines become LESS foreign-owned when the rate of lost bags increased last year?

    What a stunning comeback. I yield to your vastly superior intellect.

  • ||

    I bet this has more to do with trying to recoup the cost of fuel (since prices have gone up) than regulation. Maybe they are cutting staff (or hiring inferior staff) because they feel they can't increase prices enough to cover the fuel costs. Still, I'm on board for finishing the dereg.

  • ||

    joe, I'm wondering which regulation will cause fewer bags to be lost?

    I can see a regulation that reduces volume by raising prices having that effect, of course. But I doubt you're going to argue that the way to reduce the rate of lost baggage is to price airline travel out of reach of more people.

  • thoreau||

    Did the airlines become LESS foreign-owned when the rate of lost bags increased last year?

    It could be that the more service-oriented foreign airlines are simply more nimble and better at adapting to changing conditions than their clunky US counterparts.

    One needn't postulate a specific "Baggage loss mandate" regulation to suspect that service might get worse if the firms most capable of adapting to changing conditions are kept out of a market.

  • Mr. Wilson||

    There is no such thing as "Nebraska University". I think you're looking for the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

  • thoreau||

    All I know is that Europeans have these low-cost airlines that enable them to go all over the place for cheap on weekends.

    And I want the same, dammit!

  • ||

    http://www.usairwayslostmycostume.com/

    This has links to a number of fairly egregious horror stories, including some about Delta, that put anecdotes behind the numbers in this post.

  • ||

    Rule 1, never check anything you really need the minute you arrive (I saw one guy in Minneapolis complaing that the bag he didn't get had his car keys in it).

    Rule 2, never check anything you would not be willing to lose . . bags sometimes never show up.

  • ||

    I wonder which regulation is causing more bags to be lost?

    I will tell you how government regulations cause bags to be lost - as I lost a bag to government regulation!

    See, I was flying from Yerevan to Detroit, with a stopover in Paris. Now, normally, if you have a stopover in Paris, your bags would be loaded off one plane and on to the other (they have already passed security in Yerevan). However, they have people in the U.S. terminal in Paris who ask you if you have been to a "muslim country" (yes, they blatently and openly ask you if you have been to a "muslim country", I am not joking) between the time that you left the U.S. and are returning. If the answer is "yes" (and it was "yes" for me, I had been to couple "muslim countries"), U.S. regulations require the bag to be removed from the plane, go through another security check in Paris, and then put back on the departing plane. Since the stopover was only 45 minutes, and it takes about 30 minutes to disembark and get to the gate where you are leaving again, there was no way they were going to take the bag off, take it to the special U.S. security screening (the U.S. has it's own special isolated terminal, with its own security at De Gaul, supervised by the TSA, so don't try to blame the French for the clusterfuck!).

    Of course, since the bag is not traveling with you on your plane, that requires another security check and scrutiny. Needless to say, my bag stayed in Paris for weeks before they actually figured out how to get it for me.

    Had this flight been going to Canada (where I live, so I am very familiar with how it works there), or probably any other country but the U.S., no-one would be asking people if they been to a "muslim country" and required extra scrutiny for those bags (which had already passed security, and flew on one flight perfectly fine).

    So here joe, is a clear and undeniable case of U.S. government regulation directly causing a situation where lost bags are inevitble. Are you going to stand corrected that U.S. regulations damn well cause lost bags, or are you going to think of some convoluted reason why it wasn't the U.S. governments fault?

  • ||

    "I wonder which regulation is causing more bags to be lost?"

    Uh... the one that required more bags be checked. Duh.

    Yes, I understand that the stat is "per 10,000" but when a regulation makes a sudden change to the volume of bags being checked, faster than the airlines (banks, auto makers, retailers, taxi drivers... whatever) can react, then these minor disturbances will occur.

    It ain't rocket science.

    Cracker's Boy.

    ps. Carrick - Rule 3, Never check a bag.

  • Dave W.||

    Regulations that prevent foreign ownership of US airlines prevent highly-profitable, service-oriented foreign airlines from competing in the US.

    Competition, real competition, is awesome for consumer choice and service. carrick nails it.

  • ||

    ps. Carrick - Rule 3, Never check a bag.

    Certainly a goal, but very difficult on extended trips.

  • ||

    "I always check-in early."

    The way I heard it, if you've never missed your flight, you're wasting too much time hanging around in airports.

    I'm really glad I don't have to fly on a regular basis any more; there's about an eighty-five per cent probability that I'd end up on the no fly list, if not dead on the floor at the security gate. I get crabby sometimes.

  • ||

    The way I heard it, if you've never missed your flight, you're wasting too much time hanging around in airports.

    Never missed a flight from the originating airport. Missed severl connection though ;-)

  • eugene||

    If only there was some alternative to airplane travel - something that was almost as fast, more fuel efficient, safer, less hassle, where the station was actually centrally located inside the city center instead of an hour-long car trip away. Something that could get you from LA to SF in 2 hours and a half....


    Too bad, then, that trains are a bad idea because they're a net drain on social welfare.

  • ||

    The way I heard it, if you've never missed your flight, you're wasting too much time hanging around in airports.

    Nope, I leave. I try to pick flights in the afternoon. I check-in in the morning; then go home or to a restaurant. Hell, one time I checked-in, went to breakfast, went home and had sex, took a nap, and then returned to the airport. It's the only way to fly!

  • ||

    Don't forget that our government continually bails out our failing domestic airlines, the same airlines who year after year lose baggage and bump customers all the while charging through the nose for the experience.

  • ||

    If only there was some alternative to airplane travel - something that was almost as fast, more fuel efficient, safer, less hassle, where the station was actually centrally located inside the city center instead of an hour-long car trip away. Something that could get you from LA to SF in 2 hours and a half....


    Let's see, 220mph vs 575mph
    60-100mpg vs. "HST needs only one-third that of an airplane" (though it doesn't mention what airplane or under what parameters).
    Safer? Only if you are talking about light rail (inner city) and that is only because of the high numbers carried when compared to other transportation options (excluding automobiles of course).

    As for them being a drain on social welfare, I think this one paragraph sums up the problem entirely:

    On average, rail transit systems cover about 40 percent of their operating costs from farebox revenues and none of their capital costs, according to figures in the National Transit Database. That means their net taxpayer subsidy is large.


    Now, if they were to up the fare to cover 100% of costs, how many people would pick a $20 train ride over a $30 cab ride unless traffic congestion (NYC) would warrant it?

  • Dave W.||

    Now, if they were to up the fare to cover 100% of costs, how many people would pick a $20 train ride over a $30 cab ride unless traffic congestion (NYC) would warrant it?

    The subsidies to trains are transparent.

    The subsidies to cars are not.

    A $30 cab ride would not be $30 without the subsidies to oil companies that Ron Paul was complaining about on HBO recently. A $30 cab ride would not be $30 if the rider had to pick up the true costs of the pollution occasioned thereby.

    The link to that Poole article was quite a coup, actually.

  • eugene||

    The link to that Poole article was quite a coup, actually.

    Yeah, I was totally bamboozled by all that pro-train propaganda on that high-speed rail site, but then I read the Poole paper. I realized even though a train would benefit me personally, I need to set aside my selfish urges and put social welfare first. Take it from those moderate liberals at Brookings Institution: Pave the planet - it's for the children!

  • ||

    Something that could get you from LA to SF in 2 hours and a half....

    And get you from LA to NY in five hours?

    Hey, I hate flying nowadays as much as anyone, but it has its uses. That said, I dread every holiday season now because of the travel involved.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    ps. Carrick - Rule 3, Never check a bag.

    Eff you. I wish all of you people dragging your crap around airplanes were sentenced to life in the French Foreign Legion.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    I want zero airfare regulation except for one thing:

    All bags must be checks. No more security lines. No more 35 minute boardings.

  • ed||

    You'll pry my carry-on from my cold...well, you know.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    You'll pry my carry-on from my cold...well, you know.

    Carry ons require a full cavity search. Twice.

  • ||

    Of course none of the people who asserted that it was insane to think that government regulation caused lost baggage bothered to reply to my experience of government regulation causing my lost luggage. I thought there would be at least some arguement "Well, the extra security keeps your plane from blowing up, and therefore you losing your luggage, and thus creates a net luggage savings system wide" or some convoluted arguement like that.

    Can we all agree then, that government regulation results in lost baggage? joe? Dave T?

  • ||

    My karma seems to be aligned with 6.50 of every 1000 people...

  • eugene||

    And get you from LA to NY in five hours?

    Fair enough; high speed rail is not for trans-continental travel. But it's ideal for trips like LA to SF.

    Another advantage about how train stations can be centrally located in the middle of a population center. There's a huge untapped market around train stations for restaurants, department stores, basically any retail - if you've ever been to Japan you know that train stations are basically shopping malls in their own right, packed with shoppers at all hours.

  • ||

    "But it's ideal for trips like LA to SF."

    If you have a 200 mph train/maglev, it will get you from CITY CENTER SF to CITY CENTER LA in two hours. However, if you are trying to go from Oakland to Burbank, you might as well drive, once you allow for time to get to the terminal and make the transfer.

  • ||

    "Rule 1, never check anything you really need the minute you arrive (I saw one guy in Minneapolis complaing that the bag he didn't get had his car keys in it)."

    I think this is God's intervention, as this guy was too stupid to drive.

  • ||

    Eff you. I wish all of you people dragging your crap around airplanes were sentenced to life in the French Foreign Legion.

    Seriously. These are probably the same people that complain about the long lines and the wait times, even as they and others like them are a significant reason why there are long lines and wait times. (I would allow one small carry-on. The way the airlines starve you with shitty food, you need to bring some snacks to survive long flights.)

  • ||

    The Real Bill - and therein lies (one of) the rub(s). You complain about the airlines starving you with shitty food, but... you won't fly unless the airfare is so cheap that the airline can't cover costs. When is the last time you had a good meal on a Greyhound bus? or on Amtrak? Airfare coast to coast is cheaper than busfare. It's cheaper than trainfare. And you don't get "free" food on either of those.

    And don't be fooled about the long lines at security. They aren't caused by people with carry on bags. Look deeper... but that's for a different thread.

    CB

  • ||

    The way the airlines starve you with shitty food, you need to bring some snacks to survive long flights.)

    I have had it with these motherfucking snacks on this motherfucking plane!

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement