Trading awful for awesome
ARC disputes Pestronk’s views
Imagine you’re in a service business whose core experience is viewed by consumers as “awful.” If you’re in the airline business, you don’t have to imagine, because this is the gen- eral consensus about airline coach seating. According to the latest version of the American Cus- tomer Satisfaction Index (ASCI), U.S. consumers are a little happier about airline service this year than last, but hey still rank it below the benchmark year of 1994, so in terms of the long game, things aren’t much improved. And that’s the good news. The bad news is that consumers rank the airline indus-
try lower than all other industries measured by the na-
tional survey except for subscription TV and Internet ser-
vice. Worse, they reserve their harshest criticism for what
the survey report rightly called “the principal part of the
experience — the flight itself.”
Although consumers gave marks of 80 or above for fea-
tures such as on-time arrival, making reservations online
or checking in, they gave airlines a score of 68 for qual-
ity of in-flight services
such as food, movies and
music and a 63 for “seat
comfort,” which the ASCI
authors characterized as “awful.”
There are, of course, some notable exceptions. JetBlue
and Virgin America, for example, are often praised for their
coach seating, and JetBlue and Southwest scored well over-
all in the ASCI survey. But in broad terms, the report said
improving the passenger’s experience in the main cabin is
“the biggest challenge confronting airlines,” and we agree.
A clean, well-lighted lounge and an efficient check-in
process are important and improving parts of the airline
product, and sleeper seats and personal pods are welcome additions for long-haul premium passengers, but
when you come down to it, the experience of plain vanilla
economy class isn’t any more desirable now than it was 50
years ago and in some ways is worse.
True, we have more and better forms of electronic entertainment, and newer aircraft offer more cheerful interiors. Boeing, for example, touts the Dreamliner as being
quieter and more comfortably pressurized and humidified. But the industry standard remains the single-aisle
aircraft with six-abreast seating and an ever-shrinking
amount of legroom dictated by economics.
It is worth noting that the 737, with a cabin width of 11
feet and 7 inches, was designed in the mid-1960s, when
the average American male weighed 166 pounds and
women averaged 140. According to the government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, American men are at 195 and rising, and women are at 166.
At the Paris Air Show last week, Boeing and Airbus were
busy talking up their new models, and while passenger
comfort was part of the conversation, it was clear that the
driving force behind airliner design these days is tweaking
engines, wings and other components for maximum fuel
efficiency, not redesigning the interior space.
The next version of the venerable 737, the 737 Max, is
due to arrive in 2017 and promises double-digit improvements in fuel economy compared with current models.
This is all well and good. But the cabin is the same, and
the competing A320 family from Airbus is barely 7 inches
What Boeing, Airbus and the airlines need to do is design a narrowbody aircraft that can operate efficiently
while providing more space per passenger in the standard
coach configuration at a price point that will make money
for the airline.
That would be awesome.
By Jeannine Hankinson
Those at ARC who have been inti- mately involved in revamping the Agent Reporting Agreement (ARA) that goes into effect next week have paid close attention to its coverage
by Travel Weekly, specifically Kate Rice’s article [“Immediate effects in new ARC pact,”
June 3] and then the two different takes on
the updated ARA by Mark Pestronk in his
Legal Briefs column [“Unwelcome changes in
new ARC Agent Reporting Agreement,” June
10, and “Several changes to ARC agreement
will be helpful to agencies,” June 17].
her with the proper paperwork based on the change that
has occurred. It’s as simple as that.
An important area that also must be addressed in Mr.
Pestronk’s June 10 column is about personal guaranties.
In it, he states that “ARC will be collecting a lot more per-
sonal guaranties from agency owners.”
In fact, under the revised ARA, personal guaranties are
required under limited circumstances for defaults, which
may result in fewer, not more, personal guaranties.
For example, under the current ARA, each agent who
is placed in a default status (for failure to pay in a timely
fashion a dishonored draft or submit a sales report) is required to provide a personal guaranty, regardless of the
amount or circumstances of the default.
However, under the terms of the revised ARA, a personal guaranty would be provided in those default situations where there’s a danger of substantial loss (for example, in situations where a default amount that exceeds
the amount of the financial instrument and/or there’s a
history of such defaults.)
Mr. Pestronk says that these personal guaranties will put marginal agencies “out of business
within a year, and other agencies may decide to
give up their appointments rather than agree to
personal guaranties.” Based on the details above,
as well as the fact that ARC knows that without
a robust travel agency community there is no
ARC, this is an obvious misstatement.
Finally, Mr. Pestronk highlighted this sentence: “Agent acknowledges that all Transactional Data may be used by Carriers and ARC
We have used and continue to use agency-aggregated
data in ARC’s data products; only the carrier involved in
the transaction sees transaction-level data for a specific
While ARC had made agents aware of this in the past,
we felt that, in line with ARC’s more open and collegial
approach with the agency community, this statement
needed to be added to the ARA. It should be noted that
ARC will never sell or release PII information to any
agent, carrier or other entity not involved in the transaction.
Agents can continue to get the most up-to-date information regarding the ARA revisions by visiting the ARC
website ( www.arccorp.com/news/ara/).
ARC has been very communicative over the
past couple of years with all parties through
the multiple phases of this effort. Transparency has been, and will continue to be, key to
To that end, we would invite Mr. Pestronk
to include us in these ARC and/or ARA-related articles in
the future so that ARC can fully articulate the answers to
some of these important questions. This will ensure that
the industry gets the best and most current information,
which I am sure Mr. Pestronk would agree is beneficial to
In the end, ARC feels that the updated ARA is a touch-
stone in our continuing effort to be more cognizant of
our customers’ business needs by closely listening when
they describe their challenges and, where possible, ap-
propriately adjusting our policies and procedures for the
good of all parties. The 2013 version of the ARA is one
way we say to agents, “We get that.”
We welcomed and appreciated the brisk and
diverse consideration paid to the revised ARA
by these two writers, as it confirms what ARC
already knew: This updated agreement between
ARC, agents and carriers is extremely important
to the industry as a whole.
Jeannine Hankinson is ARC’s managing director, client