Keller @ Large: Efforts to boost airline passenger rights remain grounded

BOSTON (CBS) – You say you’re ready to pack your bags and fly the friendly skies this summer? Be warned: the annual J.D. Power survey of airline passenger satisfaction is out, and it shows a sharp drop over recent years.

The only airlines that scored above average were Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, Allegiant and Alaska Airlines, a mix of economy carriers and brands that emphasize service.

And Boston travel agent Sean Kelly of Crystal Travel says customer dissatisfaction has some familiar causes. “Clearly, staffing has been an issue at various points, that’s affected people’s experience when the service gets delivered to them,” Kelly said. “Supply chain issues also have some impact.”

It’s a situation that angers Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), who’s been trying to curb some airline industry practices.

“The status quo won’t fly,” he said in a statement to WBZ-TV. “Airlines have still failed to launch the basics, including prompt refunds, reasonable change fees, and acceptable seat sizes.”

Markey and other senators have been pushing an airline passenger’s bill of rights for years, without success.

So, as you plan your summer vacation, consider this striking advice from a man who makes his living booking airline travel. “I’m in the industry of making sure people have an enjoyable and fun time and sometimes that time might be a little closer to home than going to Europe,” says Kelly.

What can you do to avoid a travel nightmare?

Several things, say the experts:

* Expect to pay more and get less availability and service that you might be used to. Some first-class tickets don’t even buy you free drinks anymore.
* Consider travel insurance to cover disrupted trips.
* Always check your flight times in advance.
* And maybe most important of all – pack your patience.