Saturday, April 9, 2011

The meanest airlines in the U.S.

Photo by Corbis  

  A new report ranks carriers for lost bags, meanness, lateness, and bumped flights.

America's Meanest Airlines: 2011

By Hamooda Shami

 Last year was a good one for the airline industry, with U.S. airlines churning out the highest profits in more than a decade. With the exception of American Airlines, every major carrier turned in positive profits for the year.

In the 2011 Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report released on April 4, quality is up as well.

But that doesn't mean airlines deserve high-fives all around. Soaring baggage fees, widespread airfare increases and the elimination of free food on many flights were major factors in improving the bottom line. Not surprisingly, customers were not happy in 2010. According to a Business Insider study conducted last November, which uses data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, four of the major U.S. carriers made its list of the "18 Worst Companies in America." The year also saw PR nightmares for the industry, including discrimination against disabled and overweight passengers and the episode involving a JetBlue flight attendant (the now famous Steven Slater) hitting his breaking point. 2011 has already seen a pilot misplace his handgun and a flight attendant put a baby in an overhead bin -- hardly a good way to start the year.

Meanest Major Carrier


United came in last place among all major airlines on our 2011 Meanest Airlines list with an AQR score of -1.31. United had the second-highest customer complaint rate (1.64 per 100,000 passengers) of all airlines in 2010, including the regional carriers.

Meanest Regional Carrier

American Eagle

American Eagle earned last place among all regional airlines on our 2011 Meanest Airlines list with an AQR score of -2.82. The major contributing factors were that they had the most incidents of mishandled baggage (7.15 reports per 1,000 passengers) and the highest involuntary denied boardings rate (4.02 per 10,000 passengers) in 2010.

Most Complained About Airline


Delta had the highest consumer complaint rate (2.00 complaints per 100,000 passengers) of all the carriers surveyed for the 2011 Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report. Delta placed #5 among major airlines on our 2011 Meanest Airlines list with an AQR score of -1.22.

Most Likely to be Unsafe


With only 17 documented incidents out of approximately 219,000 flights in 2010, the "least safe" major (minimum of 600 flights a day on average) airline is still very safe. Fortunately, commercial air travel in the United States these days is about as safe as it gets.

Most Likely to Overcharge for Bags

Delta / US Airways / Continental

This worst culprit in this category depends on the type of baggage you're checking. Delta, US Airways and Continental all share a similar fee structure, with some variance.

How one couple cut monthly bills by $500

Brian C. Hopkins and his wife. (Courtesy Brian C. Hopkins)  

When tough times hit the Hopkins family, they made drastic changes to their spending.

First Person: How We Cut Our Monthly Spending by $500

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.
Just like at millions of other households in America, the Great Recession hit my home like a runaway train. A few years ago, I sold a small business and took a job as the national credit manager for a franchised business. My better half was working for a marketing firm, and I still was a landlord for a few investment properties. We were living a good life, and then almost overnight we were both unemployed. I was selling off properties and barely making enough to cover the mortgages. Unable to land new jobs and drawing two unemployment checks, we decided that we had to cut costs before they dried up our savings. Our cost-cutting session started with a walk around the house. We found areas where we could cut costs. We trimmed about $500 per month by focusing on just five things.
Cable TV -- saved $125
I had never been happy with our local service provider and the lack of customer service. I was even less thrilled by the $165 monthly bill that would inexplicably change by $3 to $5 each billing cycle. I called around and discovered that I could get satellite TV for $40 per month. This was a savings of $125.
Landline -- saved $90
As we continued walking through our home looking for things that could be reduced or eliminated, we kept passing by that relic on the wall known as a landline. I didn't even think of it because everyone we knew called us on our cellphones. We were paying $90 a month for something that we almost never used. It had to go.

Shutdown battle tests Obama’s 'change'

President Barack Obama before reading his statement about the budget, at the White House in Washington April 8, 2011. (REUTERS/Jim Young)  

The president promised a new Washington, but the budget fight shows it’s still business as usual.

Analysis: So much for change coming to Washington

 WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama promised to change Washington's ways. Yet he's as caught up in them as ever.

As the week began, Obama kicked off his re-election bid with a sunny video of people talking about their hopes and needs, the very image of life outside Washington politics.
By week's end, Obama was mired in budget negotiations, canceling trips and scrambling to stave off a government shutdown that could only undermine the public's faith in his leadership.
It was the messy business of governing, and how it's going to be in this long campaign for incumbent Obama.
Beyond the vision for economic competitiveness he wants to talk about, Obama is chasing a second term while trying to make a deeply divided government work. He got bogged down in legislative tactics in his first two years, even when he won fights on health care and other issues.
The goal now is to avoid all that. He can't.
In this test of leadership, the White House says Obama wrangled the budget compromise he wanted, spending cuts he supported without shelving his priorities or accepting unacceptable policy changes.
His administration portrayed it as an example of bipartisan cooperation of the highest stakes.
Yet the government was on the brink of closing, and many people were wondering how that could happen, or why.

Rare underwater find has experts stunned

A World War Two era German Dornier 17 bomber is seen using high-tech sonar equipment (Reuters/Port of London) 

A WWII plane hailed as one of the biggest "finds of the century" yields new surprises.

Nazi warplane lying off UK coast is intact

Reuters/Port of London/handout
LONDON (Reuters) – A rare World War Two German bomber, shot down over the English Channel in 1940 and hidden for years by shifting sands at the bottom of the sea, is so well preserved a British museum wants to raise it.
The Dornier 17 -- thought to be world's last known example -- was hit as it took part in the Battle of Britain.
It ditched in the sea just off the Kent coast, southeast England, in an area known as the Goodwin Sands.
The plane came to rest upside-down in 50 feet of water and has become partially visible from time to time as the sands retreated before being buried again.
Now a high-tech sonar survey undertaken by the Port of London Authority (PLA) has revealed the aircraft to be in a startling state of preservation.
Ian Thirsk, from the RAF Museum at Hendon in London, told the BBC he was "incredulous" when he first heard of its existence and potential preservation.
"This aircraft is a unique aeroplane and it's linked to an iconic event in British history, so its importance cannot be over-emphasized, nationally and internationally," he said.
"It's one of the most significant aeronautical finds of the century."

Stars sound off on 'American Idol' upset

Pia Toscano (FOX/Frank MIcelotta)  

  Jennifer Hudson is among many celebs shocked by Pia Toscano's elimination.


Apr. 4-10: Celebrities Mourn 'Idol' Loss Along With Judges, Contestants And 'Idol' Veterans

"American Idol" has had its share of unexpected losses, but this past week's results had the whole "Idol" family in shock.
22 year-old contestant Pia Toscano, who has survived the competition thus far on heartbreaking ballads, took the judges' advice this week and performed the up-tempo Ike & Tina Turner hit "River Deep, Mountain High" much to the delight of the panel.

While not seen as the best contestant in the show, it would be hard to find those who felt Toscano was ninth best. When Pia was voted off the show, the news hit the judges hard. A tear-eyed Jennifer Lopez said, "I'm shocked, I'm angry, I don't even know what to say," and Randy and Steven both echoed her sentiments. Instead of trying to make sense of what happened, the judges instead scolded the Idol-voting audience for not picking up the phone.
Rolling Stone and The Hollywood Reporter point out that even celebrities took to their Twitter accounts to share their grief over the decision:
Actress Alyssa Milano said, "What in the world? Pia? Pia was sent home? How is that possible? I'm so confused."
"Idol" veteran Jennifer Hudson tweeted, "I can not believe they just eliminated Pia! Really? As long as she walked away with that voice she will be alright! Just hate to see talent like that go!" Former "Idol" judge Ellen DeGeneres also chimed in to her 6.3 million followers, "I am shocked and so sad."
Even Tom Hanks tweeted, "Don't have an IDOL habit, but how could the USA vote Pia off? I may be done for the season!"
But "Entertainment Tonight" host Nancy O'Dell was one of few who tried to shed some light, saying, "Teenagers are voting, popularity contest. Pia had the most potential and talent."
This week commemorates a more profound loss, whose tragedy continues to rock music lovers all over the world. 17 years ago on April 5th, 1994, legendary Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain committed suicide, leaving behind his wife Courtney Love and daughter Frances Bean Cobain. The anniversary of Cobain's death prompted a surge of interest in Frances Bean, who is now 18, emancipated from her mother and gained access to a multi-million dollar trust fund. In yet another loss, the Grammys announced they have cut 31 categories from their awards, making it difficult for artists in genres like Hawaiian and Metal to compete.