Monday, April 07, 2008

Hyping Airline Data: Twaddle 101

I certainly have nothing against professors. My beloved wife is one, and so are several very good friends.

It's just these two birds, a marketing guy at Wichita State and some other guy at Nebraska, who are very clever at setting up media hype every year with their overblown "airline quality report" that, as far as I can tell, is merely a re-hash of data that the airlines routinely release each month to the Transportation Department, which in turn routinely releases them to the media.

The following words come right from the aviation quality report press material: "During both 2000 and 2007 there was talk of the United States heading into a recession; The airlines were making money after a nonprofitable period; and demand for air travel was strong."

Hully chee! as the Yellow Kid woulda said, smacking himself in the head, in another era in American journalism.

These guys know that just hammering away at the airlines -- without bothering to evaluate huge air-travel problems like the incompetent F.A.A. and without any new data at all -- somehow gets headlines and keeps their enterprise going.

Here's one asinine statistic the report trumpets:

Last year, complaints to the DOT about airline service were 1.42 per 100,000 passengers. (The USA Today newspaper, the one nobody actually pays for, is all atwitter over that fact today.) Now, I know some some reporters don't know nothing 'bout numbers. But really: a minuscule 1.42 per 100,000? The same asinine figure was cited on the network news programs. Don't any of these reporters have editors who will ask them to do the math and see just how ridiculously tiny and devoid of meaning that number is?

Everybody I know has serious complaints about airline service. We just don't file them with the DOT. That means, the figure is utter nonsense.

It isn't often that I concur with the Air Transport Association, the harrumphing airline trade group. Today I do.

Meanwhile, I just love Mike Boyd's furious reaction every year when this gaseous report comes out and gets all those dim-witted reporters jumping up and down on cue. "Golly gee, Captain Obvious: Where did they get this wealth of knowledge?" Mike asks today.

To see for yourself what pure sophomoric twaddle this report is, here's a copy:


Keep in mind that every number in it comes from widely available monthly air-traffic consumer reports put out by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and regularly reported in the professional media. Or should I say 0.00000076 percent of the media, down a shocking 0.0000002 percentage points from the same asinine figure from last year.


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