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March 15, 2019

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Poor response to failure is main issue travelers have with airlines

Meals, extra services such as Wi-Fi and the handling of unexpected situations have ranked at the bottom of an airlines satisfaction survey, the Shanghai Consumer Council revealed yesterday.

The council surveyed 1,799 respondents, 602 were randomly interviewed at Hongqiao International Airport, with the remainder questioned online.

The survey covered eight airlines including China Eastern Airlines, Spring Airlines, Air China, Hainan Airlines and China Southern Airlines, all of which operate flights from Shanghai.

More than 64 percent of on-the-spot interviewees said they encountered abnormal situations when taking flights, while the figure was 50 percent for online respondents, according to the council.

Among online respondents who encountered abnormal situations, 72.3 percent said they encountered flight cancellations. The figure was 45.7 percent for on-the-spot interviewees.

Luggage being delayed, broken or lost, and overbooked flights were also among the most-mentioned unexpected situations, said Liu Bo, an expert with the Shanghai New Consumption Research Center.

“We found that consumers are not the most angry about these abnormal situations, rather the effectiveness and timeliness of airlines handling the situations,” said Liu.

When flight cancellations affect passengers’ schedules, airlines operators often fail to provide an effective solution such as arranging temporary accommodation or changing them to another flight with the closest time, he said. Instead, they make excuses.

In terms of luggage problems, they use the same “strategy,” the council revealed.

The council received 836 complaints about airlines last year, among which 203 were related to abnormal flights and 107 to luggage.

More than 80 percent of the complaints resulted from the response of airlines, Tang Jiansheng, deputy secretary-general of the council, said.

“Information is lagging as consumers are usually informed of the situation very late, and a timely solution cannot be provided,” said Tang. “Passengers are just told their situation will be recorded, in most cases, when they seek help from airlines.”

Jane Liu, a Shanghai resident, added: “I once waited overnight for my luggage which was delayed when traveling in Europe. I now bring a small case with a towel and toothbrush with me on every flight.”

Another consumer, surnamed Ding, said: “My flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai was once canceled and the handling response of the airline was desperately slow. The counter was packed with anxious passengers and everybody was complaining.”

The satisfaction score for the variety and quality of flight meals was 64.6, according to the survey.

“Consumers hope airlines will pay more attention to their personalized needs instead of providing standard food all the time,” said Liu.

The council suggested airlines replace bread, cakes and waffles with Shanghai’s specialty products.

“These products can include palmier cookies or White Rabbit candies, which represent the traditional flavors of Shanghai and are widely recognized by consumers,” he said.

The convenience of flight ticket purchase and the variety of flights available were the most satisfying items.

Last year, Pudong and Hongqiao airports received 118 million passengers, a rise of about 5.4 percent from a year earlier.


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