Here's another article with travelers' airplane horror stories, with a primary focus on the rapid decline of United's customer service. The worst of the stories:
Passenger Carolyn Smith of Singapore complained to the DOT after what she calls a "flight from hell" from San Francisco to Hong Kong in January. Eight hours into the 14-hour flight from San Francisco, the United crew announced none of the lavatories in coach were usable, she says. Only the business cabin bathrooms worked, she says. The crew asked passengers to stop drinking so they wouldn't need the bathroom and did not serve the second meal, Smith says.
The captain told passengers there would be food and beverage waiting in Hong Kong when they arrived, but there was not, she says.
United responded to Smith's e-mailed complaint three weeks later — with an apology but no explanation for the toilet snafu. United sent her a $200 voucher; Smith would have liked a refund.
Also of note is that customer service was outsourced to Poland, the Philippines, and India. While I don't have a problem with outsourcing, customer service is one of the worst things to outsource, in my opinion. I'm probably not alone in having difficulty following accented English, especially over a long distance connection. A wise company should keep a large number of customer service representatives, native speakers of English from the United States or Canada, for escalating calls.
I travel by plane about once a month, and stay remarkably free of travel problems. Perhaps it's when I fly, most often evenings, and avoiding problem airports like Chicago O'Hare. Despite the problems people associate with those airlines, I've done most of my travel on Northwest and USAirways.
Update: I got a call from someone doing a survey. I normally enjoy answering surveys. But since the person calling had a strong accent, I was not interested in answering this survey.