GMAT : Analysis of An Argument

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An Argument

39. The following appeared in an Avia Airlines departmental memorandum.

On average, 9 out of every 1,000 passengers who travelled on Avia Airlines last year filed a complaint about our baggage-handling procedures. This means that although some 1 percent of our passengers were unhappy with those procedures, the overwhelming majority were quite satisfied with them. Thus it would appear that a review of the procedures is not important to our goal of maintaining or increasing the number of Avia's passengers.


Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion.


The conclusion in this Avia Airlines memorandum is that a review of the airline's baggage-handling procedures will not further its goal of maintaining or increasing the number of Avia’s passengers.

The author's line of reasoning is that the great majority of Avia’s passengers are happy with baggage handling at the airline because only one percent of passengers who travelled on Avia last year filed a complaint about Avia's procedures.

This argument is problematic in two important respects.

First, the argument turns on the assumption that the 99 percent of Avia passengers who did not complain were happy with the airline's baggage-handling procedures. However, the author provides no evidence to support this assumption. The fact that, on the average, 9 out of 1000 passengers took the time and effort to formally complain indicates nothing about the experiences or attitudes of the remaining 991. It is possible that many passengers were displeased but too busy to formally complain while others had no opinion at all. Lacking more complete information about passengers' attitudes, we cannot assume that the great majority of passengers who did not complain were happy.

Secondly, in the absence of information about the number of passengers per flight and about the complaint records of competing airlines, the statistics presented in the memorandum might distort the seriousness of the problem. Given that most modern aircraft carry as many as 300 to 500 passengers, it is possible that Avia received as many as 4 or 5 complaints per flight. The author unfairly trivializes this record. Moreover, the author fails to compare Avia's record with those of its competitors. It is possible that a particular competitor received virtually no baggage-handling complaints last year. If so, Avia's one percent complaint rate might be significant enough to motivate customers to switch to another airline.

In conclusion, the author has failed to demonstrate that a review of the baggage-handling procedures at Avia Airlines is not needed to maintain or increase the number of Avia's passengers. To strengthen the argument, the author must at the very least provide affirmative evidence that most Avia’s passengers last year were indeed happy with baggage-handling procedures.

To better evaluate the argument, we would need more information about the numbers of Avia passengers per flight last year and about the baggage-handling records of Avia's competitors.

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