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Just the Facts?

June 23, 1996

In Sunday's Times there was a table showing the U.S. airlines that had received the most complaints ("Just the Facts: Airline Complaints," June 2). It showed the number of complaints per airline and the number of passengers the airline carried. The problem is that the table didn't show the number of complaints per passenger. If an airline flies 10 times as many passengers as another, wouldn't it be expected that the larger airline would receive more complaints? Am I to infer from your table that I'll probably have a more trouble-free flight on Nations Air Express (36 total complaints) than Southwest (107 complaints)? Such an inference would be foolish. While Southwest had roughly three times as many complaints, it flew 600 times as many passengers. Which airline would you rather be on?

DAVID W. HUNTINGTON

Los Angeles

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In the chart "Just the Facts: Airline Complaints," you may be doing a disservice to your readers by ranking the airlines by number of complaints, with the implication that the airlines with the fewest complaints are best. United has the most total complaints. Yet, on a complaints-per-passenger basis, it is really average. The worst airline has about 50 times more complaints per passenger than United. Nations Air Express has almost the fewest complaints. But the seven discount airlines have, on average, 24 times the complaints per passenger of the 13 non-discount airlines. Southwest has the best complaint record of all the airlines.

FREEMAN F. GOSDEN JR.

Los Angeles

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This article is far from "Just the Facts." If you were really interested in summarizing information for your readers, you would have gone the extra mile of calculating the number of complaints per (say) 100,000 passengers. Figured this way, United, for instance, instead of being worst, moves up 11 places; Nations Air Express moves from third best to worst; Hawaiian Airlines moves from best to seven places lower; and Southwest moves from 10th best to best. Your readers deserve better information.

ARVID OLSON

Pasadena

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