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Airline Quality Study Finds Passenger Complaints Soaring

Aired April 10, 2000 - 2:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: It appears the quality of U.S. airline service is declining, despite recent promises by the nation's carriers. A new university study finds the number of passenger complaints soared last year.

CNN's Carl Rochelle takes a look at the numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you think flying the airlines got worse last year, an annual review of airline quality says you were right.

BRENT BROWN, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA: We actually saw a dive in the overall quality in the last quarter, while the airlines were supposed to be working on their plans, implementing their plans for service improvement.

ROCHELLE: The airline quality rating is based on a review of on- time performance, how often baggage is mishandled, and how frequently passengers are bumped from flights.

Of the 10 airlines surveyed: Southwest rated best, followed by Continental, Delta, Northwest and Alaska Airlines. US Airways, number one last year, plunged to 6th place in 1999, followed by American, America West, Transworld, and, for the second year in a row, United was in last place.

BROWN: You can see that consumers are just fed up. The consumers are fed up with poor service. The consumers are fed up with all aspects of service quality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't like the way that you get packed i, like, basically into a plane. Taking a bus is actually more comfortable nowadays.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About a year ago, I was stuck 24 hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and they kept telling us that they would put us in the next plane.

ROCHELLE: The Air Transport Association says, the data may not give an accurate representation of passengers' experiences.

DAVID FUSCUS, AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION: You're talking about a few thousand people that complained directly to the Department of Transportation, that's out of 640 million passengers last year. So statistically that's not a very good number.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROCHELLE: With consumer complaints up 130 percent last year, according to the researchers, the have said it is time for a new initiative for a passengers' bill of rights, a bill that was considered last year by Congress, but not passed.

I'm Carl Rochelle, CNN, reporting live from Washington.

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