Airline Passenger Complaints Surge

Apr 8, 2013 9:44am

Daily Business Memo:

Airline passengers are getting grumpier and complaining more about the shrinking size of seats and being bumped from overbooked flights. Passenger complaints to the U.S. Transportation Department rose by one-fifth last year. The surge came despite a higher percentage of on-time flights in 2012 than during the year before.

“The way airlines have taken 130-seat airlines and expanded them to 150 seats to squeeze out more revenue is finally catching up with them,” says Dean Headley, a business professor at the University of Kansas. “People are saying, ‘Look I don’t fit here. Do something about this.’ At some point airlines can’t keep shrinking seats to put more people into the same tube.”

Charlie Leocha of the Consumer Travel Alliance says the Internet makes it easier for passengers to air their frustrations. “Because of the new online complaints systems, which send your complaints directly to DOT, consumers now have a way to complaint more easily.”

Some people have had it with TV. They’ve had enough of the 100-plus channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly cable bills.

A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service, and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections. Last month, the Nielsen Co. started labeling people in this group “Zero TV” households because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the United States, up from 2 million in 2007.

Winning back the Zero TV crowd will be one of the many issues broadcasters discuss at their national meeting, called the NAB Show, taking place this week in Las Vegas. “Getting broadcast programming on all the gizmos and gadgets – like tablets, the backseats of cars and laptops – is hugely important,” says Dennis Wharton of the NAB.

First the good news about newspaper ad revenue. At least it did not fall off a cliff last year. The Newspaper Association of America reports total revenue in 2012 fell 2 percent. That’s the smallest drop in six years. The association says publishers turned to new businesses and raised more money from online subscriptions.

Is it time for a spring swoon for the economy? Some experts are warning that the jobs market might be in for more disappointments in the spring and summer. The March report from the government showed a sharp drop in new jobs compared to the previous three months.

Government spending from the sequester could take a bite out of jobs, Federated Investors market expert Phil Orlando said. “We know there’s $85 billion in spending that’s going to come out of the economy in the next six months.” And Orlando says health care overhaul is affecting full-time employment. “One of the key elements of the Affordable Care Act is that if you are a full-time employee, which they’re defining as someone who is working 30 hours or more a week, then you are entitled to health care benefits. What a lot of companies are doing right now is they are chopping the hours of those workers to below 30 hours a week.”

These employers might be hiring more workers, says Orlando, but reducing their weekly hours “so they don’t have to provide health-care benefits.”

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesabc

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