At Airports, More Delays, More Lost Luggage--And Don't Blame the Weather

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Maybe it's just a sign of resignation. While cases of baggage mishandling, bumped flights, and delays at airports increased last year over 2005, a report out today found, ironically, rates of consumer complaints have decreased marginally.

The 2007 Airline Quality Rating report (pdf) noted that overall quality of the industry has declined since 2005, based on scores in three of four categories tracked. One of the report's coauthors, Dean E. Headley, tells News Desk he thinks "airlines should take a deep breath and decide what to do about it."

"When there are fewer airplanes, seats available, and fewer employees, something's gotta give," he said.

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation show a cut in employees of network carriers from 2001 to 2005 with the number of U.S. Airline passengers growing.

With the AQR ratings based on 2006 performance, the weather delays of jetBlue in February could not be blamed for poor evaluations.

"Even weather is not out of the hands of the industry," stated Brent Bowen, another co-author of the report, tells News Desk.

Others blame the stormy conditions of the industry itself.

"When you are severely understaffed and demoralize the staff, you are going to have some problems," said Pete Janhunen, spokesman for Air Line Pilots Association, a union representing over 40 airlines in the United States and Canada. "Pilots are locked into bankruptcy era conditions."

But not everyone in the industry considers the report valuable. "[The AQR] does not further the discussion of what the airlines industry needs to do," said Michael Boyd, president and founder of The Boyd Group, an aviation consulting and forecasting group in Colorado.

--Amy Golod