Posts tagged with "Southwest Airlines"

Passport illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Airlines Urged to Issue Refunds

Consumer Reports & PIRG Urge Airlines to Provide Full Refunds for Flights Canceled During Pandemic as Voucher Expiration Dates Approach

Groups Call for Airlines to Extend Voucher Expiration Dates Through At Least End Of 2022

With the one-year anniversary of the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown approaching, Consumer Reports and U.S. PIRG sent a letter to ten domestic airlines today calling on them to provide full refunds to consumers whose flights were canceled or affected by the pandemic.  At the very least, the consumer groups are urging airlines to extend the expiration dates for vouchers they issued for canceled flights to the end of 2022 or longer.

“Millions of Americans who booked flights in good faith in 2020 were prevented from flying because of government lockdowns and safety concerns brought on by a once-in-a-century global pandemic,” said William J. McGee, Aviation Adviser to Consumer Reports.  “The airline industry has received very generous support from taxpayers while stiff-arming its customers and treating their hard-earned dollars as interest-free loans.  It’s time to provide consumers with the long-overdue refunds they rightfully deserve.”

The consumer groups’ letter notes that complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation about airline refunds have jumped dramatically over the past year.  In 2019, consumers submitted a total of 1,574 complaints about refunds to the DOT.  Last year, that number increased 57-fold to 89,518 refund complaints.

Consumer Reports has been contacted by numerous customers frustrated that they couldn’t get a refund during lockdowns and who are concerned that they might not be able to travel before vouchers expire. An analysis by TripAction, a travel management company for businesses, found that 55 percent of vouchers for unused tickets will expire in 2021, and 45 percent will expire in 2022.

Many passengers were prevented from flying because of government restrictions, public health notices, or serious medical conditions that made flying during the pandemic unsafe. Far too many of the trips they booked will never happen, due to the cancellation (not postponement) of conferences, conventions, weddings, graduations, and family reunions.

While passengers on flights canceled by airlines are entitled to a full refund under federal law, a congressional analysis found that some carriers offered vouchers as the default option, requiring passengers to take extra steps to get a cash refund. Many airlines waited until the last minute to cancel scheduled flights, prompting concerned passengers to cancel their tickets and forfeit their legal right to a refund.

“It’s insulting and unfair that airlines haven’t offered refunds to all customers affected by the pandemic,” said Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog Director for U.S. PIRG. “Consumers certainly couldn’t have foreseen a once-in-a-lifetime global crisis. Our research has shown that travelers whose plans got canceled have to wade through refund policies likely written by a team of lawyers. They’re faced with figuring out the difference between a flight credit or a trip credit or a travel voucher and similar offers the airlines make to avoid giving people easy-to-understand cash in their pocket.”

A Consumer Reports review of airline voucher policies found nine different policies among ten different airlines.  Many of these policies are hard to find on airline websites, and the airlines’ descriptions of their policies can be quite confusing and at times contradictory, based on conflicting rules for various dates of booking, travel, and cancellation. The consumer groups’ letter was sent to the CEOs of the following scheduled airlines: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines.

Emotional Support Animal Airline Laws Changing January 11th

In 2020, the Department of Transportation made a new determination that only service dogs would continue to be protected under the American’s with Disabilities Act, thus categorizing emotional support animals as pets.

So far, only Southwest Airlines have stated that they will continue to accept ESA’s at no charge. Both Alaska and American Airlines have stated that they will no longer accept emotional support animals on flights. However, several airlines accept pets for a fee. Those who have already booked flights this year with their ESA should look into each airline policy, as some will still be accepting ESA’s from existing reservations.

“Basically what it comes down to is the animal’s training. They are saying an individual with PTSD who has a trained dog can have the animal with them during air travel, but if the individual has PTSD and doesn’t have the luxury of being gifted a service dog, or can’t afford the costs of obtaining a service dog which can run upwards of $50,000, then their PTSD doesn’t qualify/isn’t valid,” said licensed mental health professional Prairie Conlon. Prairie Conlon, LPC, NPC  and Clinical Director of CertaPet was disheartened about the news.

“That’s textbook discrimination on several levels. I’m honestly astonished that they pushed this through. There are so many other options, such as tightening restrictions and requiring basic training, that could have solved the issue,” continued Conlon.

“So many news sources keep referring to the peacock incident of 2018 and of course they are saying good riddance, as am I. But what they fail to realize is that that incident did cause a lot of change and those types of animals haven’t seen ESA status for air travel since then. Stop referring to the peacock. It’s not a valid argument anymore. Nobody is fighting for the peacock to be an ESA.” 

CertaPet, an emotional support letter service, released this statement:

“We at Certapet think this is a great disservice to those facing mental health challenges that get emotional support from their animal.  We understand that there have been incidents that have discredited emotional support animals and the service they provide, but those situations could be prevented by increased regulation.  We think emotional support peacocks are ridiculous too.  Providing clear guidelines for certification and vetting companies in the industry would have been simple steps to solve this challenge for all stakeholders. Certapet is a trusted telehealth platform that has been providing real mental health services for many years. These imposter companies exploiting individuals with mental health issues should be penalized.

Eliminating emotional support animals altogether is a quick, cheap fix that disregards those who really need and use the treatment appropriately. The DOT has chosen the easy and harmful path over the correct one. We hope to have continued discussions with airlines as they make choices on their own company policies and encourage them to make the right decisions. Mental health is a serious issue and removing access to a researched and proven treatment is a disgrace.”

ABOUT PRAIRIE CONLON

Prairie is a licensed mental health professional and is considered the world’s leading expert on Emotional Support Animals. She is the Clinical Director of Therapeutic and consults for CertaPet, one of the largest telehealth companies in the nation. Prairie has a Master’s Degree in professional counseling and a Postgraduate Degree in Military Behavioral health counseling. She is certified as an equine-assisted psychotherapist. Prairie is a certified Accelerated Resolution Therapist and helps train future trauma therapist in this modality. She consults for several nonprofits for veterans and first responder trauma, including The Lone Survivor Foundation and Horses that Heal. She is the founder, developer and lead researcher of emotional support animal Assisted Therapy (ESAAT) which is a set of techniques utilized to decrease anxiety, panic attacks, depressive symptoms, and sleep difficulties with the use of an Emotional Support Animal.

ABOUT CERTAPET

We are the #1 Emotional Support Letter Service, and we make sure your letter is 100% compliant with state and federal regulations.

As Airline Satisfaction Climbs to Record Highs, Line Blurs Between Low-Cost and Traditional Carriers, J.D. Power Finds

Alaska Airlines Ranks Highest among Traditional Carriers for 12th Consecutive Year; JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines Tie for Highest Rank among Low-Cost Carriers

Is this the golden age of air travel? According to the J.D. Power 2019 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, SM a combination of newer planes, better ticket value and improved customer touchpoints have driven overall satisfaction with airlines to its highest point in history, up 11 points (on a 1,000-point scale) from last year’s record-setting performance. The surge is driven by significant improvements among traditional carriers, while satisfaction slowed with low-cost carriers.

“Airlines continue to deliver on the operational side of air travel,” said Michael Taylor, Travel Intelligence Lead at J.D. Power. “New technology investments have dramatically improved the reservation and check-in process. Fleets are newer and travelers generally feel that they are getting great value for their money. These improvements have been most profound in the traditional carrier segment, where customer satisfaction has climbed considerably.

“While low-cost carriers have historically had the highest levels of customer satisfaction in our study, due to a strong sense of value for money among customers, that line is starting to blur as traditional carriers improve their services and operations,” Taylor added. “The one area where both traditional and low-cost carriers can still improve, however, is in in-flight services. It continues to be the lowest-ranked factor in the study, as many airlines still struggle with in-flight entertainment, connectivity, in-seat power, and food service.”

Following are some of the key findings of the 2019 study:

  • Record-high customer satisfaction: Overall satisfaction with airlines increases 11 points to 773, continuing an eight-year trend of satisfaction improvement.
  • Improvement is driven by traditional carriers: This year’s significant gains in customer satisfaction are driven by the traditional carriers, whose segment satisfaction score improves 22 points from 2018. The low-cost segment—while still having higher overall satisfaction than the traditional carrier segment—declines 6 points from 2018, thus driving a segment convergence in satisfaction.
  • Tech investments in reservation and check-in systems pay off: The reservation and check-in experiences are the most satisfying portions of the airline experience, driven by investments in digital check-in technologies, self-service kiosks and a concerted effort among airlines to improve the efficiency of the pre-flight process.
  • In-flight service remains a stumbling block: In-flight services, such as seatback entertainment, food service, and Wi-Fi continue to be the lowest-ranked part of the air traveler experience. Specific in-flight amenities that have the greatest positive effect on customer satisfaction are fresh food, seatback games and seatback live television.

Study Rankings

Among traditional carriers, Alaska Airlines ranks highest for the 12th consecutive year, with a score of 801. Delta Air Lines (788) ranks second and American Airlines (764) ranks third.

Among low-cost carriers, JetBlue Airways (817) and Southwest Airlines (817) rank highest in a tie. For Southwest, this is the third consecutive year at the top of the J.D. Power ranking.

Among Canada-based airlines, Air Canada (729) saw its customer satisfaction score declined 5 points from 2018. WestJet (758) saw its score increase 11 points but remains below the low-cost carrier average.

The North America Airline Satisfaction Study, now in its 15th year, measures passenger satisfaction with airline carriers in North America based on performance in seven factors (in order of importance): cost and fees; in-flight services; aircraft; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; check-in; and reservation. The study measures passenger satisfaction among both business and leisure travelers and is based on responses from 5,966 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2018 and March 2019. The study was fielded from April 2018 through March 2019.

For more information about the North America Airline Satisfaction Study, visit http://www.jdpower.com/business/resource/jd-power-north-america-airline-satisfaction-study.

Join the conversation on social media using #AirlineStudy and follow J.D. Power on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

J.D. Power is a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services, and data and analytics. These capabilities enable J.D. Power to help its clients drive customer satisfaction, growth, and profitability. Established in 1968, J.D. Power has offices serving North America, South America, Asia Pacific, and Europe.

Devon Gilfillian: Winter Wonderland

Devon Gilfillian ushers in the holiday season with an infectious, soulful take on Winter Wonderland. Download it here!

“I decided to cover ‘Winter Wonderland’ because it takes me back to being a kid in Philly, watching inches upon inches of snow fall to the ground and praying for those three extra snow days to be added to Christmas break,” explains Gilfillian. “It takes me back to Pops making silver dollar pancakes on Christmas morning, and singing Bing Crosby’s version of this tune. I wanted to hold on to the nostalgia I feel from this song but also put a modern soul spin to it.”

Hailed by Rolling Stone as one of the most exciting young artists in Nashville’s burgeoning soul scene, Gilfillian will close out 2018 with a December 6 show at Academy Center of the Arts in Lynchburg, VA, where he will open for Mavis Staples, and a performance at Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight: New Year’s Eve in Nashville.

He will join Brothers Osborne on the road next spring. The run kicks off on March 21 at The Fillmore in New Orleans and includes an April 3 show at The Novo in Los Angeles. Gilfillian will also perform at the 2019 Shakey Knees Festival in Atlanta. See below for itinerary. Tickets are on sale HERE.

Winter Wonderland follows the singles Truth, High. and Troublemaker. Troublemaker, which was praised by Rolling Stone as a raucous heaping of swampy soul and rock, was heard during 2018 NFL Draft programming/advertising. Gilfillian performed the national anthem before Round 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Gilfillian, who is featured in the Frye Americana Roots campaign and was recently named as a Southwest Airlines “Artist on the Rise,” grew up outside Philadelphia and moved to Nashville to pursue music full-time. In 2016, he released his debut EP, which NPR Music said, “captures his exuberance and musical openness, setting the stage for what promises to be a brilliant career.” Gilfillian is currently working on his full-length debut.

Winning Loyalty Programs

Research shows increasing your customer retention rate by five percent has the potential to increase your profit by up to 95 percent. With the potential for a payoff like that out there, it’s absolutely imperative to consider as many ways as possible to hold on to your existing customer base. A proven method of accomplishing this is rewarding repeat customers with special offers in an effort to strengthen your relationship with them. Here are a few examples of winning loyalty programs to consider.

Make Points of Purchases
Perhaps the most common loyalty program, point systems entice customers to make a set number of purchases to earn a valuable reward. The key here is to make it easy as possible. Southwest Airlines had one of the simplest point programs ever devised by an airline. For every 10 flights you took with the airline during a calendar year, you got one free. Take 20 you got two, take 30 you got three, 40 got you four and so on. Easy to understand and easy to redeem it was one of the all time great frequent flyer programs. You can follow the airline’s lead for your ebook store. For every 10 books a customer buys in a year, they get one free. The key is simplicity. People got very upset when Southwest switched to a more complicated program.

No Fears of Tiers
As you’re strategizing ideas for how to sell an ebook online, consider instituting a program in which rewards become more valuable as your customers move farther up the food chain. Let 10 purchases get a customer a relatively inexpensive gift, while 30 garners them a better gift and 50 earns an even more valuable one. You can assign level designations as they make more purchases too. Purchasing 10 items within a certain time period qualifies them for “Silver Status”. Buying 30 makes them “Gold” while 50 turns them “Platinum”. Along with gifts can come ever more desirable perks as customers reach the upper tiers. These can include benefits such as chats with authors, sneak previews of new titles and opportunities to purchase new ebooks before they’re published.

It Pays to Play
Subscriptions and memberships are excellent ways to reward loyalty and get customers to make purchases in advance. Plus, they get a feeling of importance because they belong to your site’s VIP group. Wineries have been doing this with wine clubs for years. Similarly, the Amazon Prime strategy rewards users with fee two-day shipping; free streaming videos and a host of other benefits non-members don’t get. Remarkably, providing Prime benefits costs Amazon more than it makes in fees for them, but it serves as a loss leader. The company loses money on Prime memberships, but more than makes up on the purchases its Prime members make.

A Coalition of the Willing
By partnering with other merchants, you can allow your customers to earn discounts on other products and vice versa. This gives them the ability to turn their book purchases into currency on sites offering other things in which they have interests. Getting to know your clientele will serve you well as you determine what partnerships will be most beneficial. If your site caters primarily to a female shopper, then teaming with other sites offering products in which women are most likely to have an interest can be quite successful. The key is building a willing coalition of partners to which your customer base can relate.

These are the four examples of winning loyalty programs are the most common you’ll find. Of course, there are a number of ways within each category to incorporate your own nuances. This will make it uniquely your own and ideally make participating even more attractive to your ideal customer.

Kirby Chambliss × Hot Air Balloons

Pilot takes to stunning skies to mark National Hot Air Balloon Day in style.

Kirby Chambliss switched chicanes for hot air balloons in a novel and eye-catching display to mark National Hot Air Balloon Day.

Some 99 years after Indianapolis Motor Speedway held its first event, a hot air balloon race, the Red Bull Air Race pilot commemorated the anniversary in some style. Here is all you need to know:

  • The display was put on from his Phoenix, Arizona, home – he has a runway in his back garden – with a series of hot air balloons set up on the ground akin to pylons for him to weave through.
  • The American pilot then took to the skies as the balloons were released and showed some of the aerobatic skills, which have made him one of the world’s leading pilots by swerving in, out and above the balloons.
  • Of the venture, he said: “The reason we did it is because the up-and-coming race in the United States will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the very first event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a hot air balloon race. Weaving back and forth between the balloons is a bit different than doing that around our pylons because the balloons are quite a bit wider, and you can’t hit the balloons!”
  • Chambliss currently lies eighth in the Red Bull Air Race Championship with a podium finish in the opening round in Abu Dhabi.
  • He will compete on American soil, where he is a two-time race winner, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 6-7 for its round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
  • The 58-year-old is a two-time world champion in the series having been crowned in both 2004 and 2006. He also boasts 10 race victories.
  • Growing up, he was a motocross rider but always dreamt of being a pilot and, aged 24, became the youngest ever commercial pilot for Southwest Airlines. Four years later, he was a captain. He fuelled aircraft growing up to earn enough money to fly himself.
  • He is married to a fellow pilot, Kellie, and lives on a ranch aptly named Flying Crown Ranch.

Discover more Red Bull Air Race content HERE.