Sunday musings: Trains in China, complaining about airlines, etags

High-speed trains challenge airplanes in China, complaining about airline service doesn’t pay, etags may mean less lost baggage.

China’s high-speed rail is so popular, it’s hurting the domestic airline industry

In China, aviation growth is being challenged by high-speed trains that the government has developed and which are zipping between the major cities with travel times equal to airlines. When the airline system is plagued with delays and finds its airports crowded, the trains take on a better aura.

… the costly and sometimes under-used rail network was shaping up to be a vital part of China’s growth strategy. It doesn’t have the hurdles of the airline industry: Airlines in China struggle to get clearances from the military to expand flight paths, and China’s major airports have earned the title of the most-delayed in the world, where passengers sometimes riot to protest long waits and miserable customer service.

The high-speed rail system, on the other hand, has quickly grown to over 6,000 miles in five years, and will expand to 11,800 miles by 2015. It is already transporting some 2 million passengers a day on trains that are rarely delayed, and which go nearly 200 miles an hour, twice as many passengers as domestic airlines.


If there were no rail network, these passengers wouldn’t all necessarily have taken flights instead, of course. Some might not have traveled at all, or gone by car, bus or slow train.

Airlines catch a break from the Supreme Court — federal rules trump local customer service failures

If you don’t like your frequent flier program or the airline that is behind the frequent flier program, don’t complain. Airlines now have the right to take away your mileage when you complain about bad service. And, what industry other than the airlines is known for lousy customer service… maybe the cell phone companies or cable operators… but airlines are near the top of the bad customer service heap. And, they don’t give a darn.

[Rabbi S. Binyomin] Ginsberg said in court papers that he and his wife flew almost exclusively on Northwest, logging roughly 75 flights a year to travel across the U.S. and abroad to give lectures and take part in conferences on education and administration.

He said he flew on Northwest even when other airlines offered comparable or better flights and in 2005, reached the highest level of the WorldPerks program.

Northwest cut him off in 2008, shortly after Northwest and Delta agreed to merge. Ginsberg said the move was a cost-cutting measure designed to get rid of the high-mileage customers.

Northwest says Ginsberg complained 24 times in a 7-month period, including nine instances of luggage that turned up late on airport baggage carousels. Northwest said that before it took action, it awarded Ginsberg $1,925 in travel credit vouchers, 78,500 bonus miles, a voucher for his son and $491 in cash reimbursements.

The airline pointed to a provision of the mileage program’s terms that gives Northwest the right to cancel members’ accounts for abuse.

Air France-KLM: ‘Our new permanent bag tag and tracking device can benefit the entire industry’

Airlines and technology companies are working on developing a permanent baggage tag. Once you put it on your bag, it will change itself depending on your destination and it will allow you to track your bag across the world.

eTrack makes use of GSM, GPS and Bluetooth technology, which enables it to be tracked by a smartphone, while eTag also utilizes Bluetooth. Passengers with a Flying Blue account can link the eTag and eTrack devices to their account, so when they check in online, the permanent bag tag will be automatically updated within just five seconds. The tag communicates with the outside world via the eTrack device, and directly with smartphones using Bluetooth, but the two products can also be used independently.

“Bluetooth technology is used worldwide, so it makes sense for us to use it,” van Lijf [Manager Product Innovation, Air France-KLM,] stated. “With things like NFC (Near Field Communication), you would need to use more antennas, which would mean the tag would have to be bigger. We could add NFC later, but Bluetooth works fine.”

  • Lisa Simeone

    “luggage that turned up late on airport baggage carousels”??

    Heaven forfend! No wonder Northwest rescinded their FF privileges.

    As for “China’s high-speed rail is so popular, it’s hurting the domestic airline industry,” we should be so lucky in the U.S. That would be fantastic. Though then, I suppose, the goons and thugs of the TSA would move from airports to train stations (even more than their odious VIPR teams are already doing), and we’d be just as bad off as we are now.