Flyers rarely complain even when they have cause to

By The Economist online…

BUSINESS travellers are hardy souls. It goes with the territory. Theirs is a life of jet lag, cramped seating and reheated meals, all washed down with weak cups of coffee. Small wonder, then, that a recent study by Clarabridge, a technology firm, suggests that few travellers ever actually lodge complaints about their flights. It surveyed almost 2,500 passengers in Britain and America and found that about two-thirds of respondents have never aired a grievance, even when they had good reason to do so. This is despite the fact that complaints are on the rise overall, as Gulliver has previously reported.

Why are so many reluctant to complain? One reason is that passengers think airlines will ignore them. This explanation was given by about a third of those who have never complained, according to Clarabridge’s study.

This should worry airlines. Being ignored leaves customers even more frustrated and can dent future revenue. An analysis by Twitter and Applied Marketing Science, a research group, examined the preferences of passengers who used the social-media platform to complain about a carrier. Not only did receiving a response boost customer satisfaction, but faster replies made it more likely that passengers would fork out for more expensive tickets from that airline in the future.

A less-concerning explanation of passenger’s willingness to suffer in silence is that service has never been so good. In the decades since deregulation in the 1970s, flights have become more punctual, more frequent and more convenient. Advances in technology have made it easier to buy tickets, board a plane and enjoy movies while flying.

Moreover, flying is now cheaper. Data from Airlines for America, a trade group, show that the average cost of air travel per mile halved between 1979 and 2012. And it has tumbled even further in the past few years thanks largely to lower oil prices. That will please the one-third of travellers who, according to Clarabridge, choose their flights solely on the basis of price. And for the rest? Well, nothing suppresses the urge to complain quite like getting a good deal.


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Category: Business and finance, Gulliver

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