They’re not ‘friendly skies’ anymore

The airline industry is in a crisis. Never before in our times have we seen an industry continue to trip from one mess into another. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Western Pennsylvania, the airline industry sought for relief. Much of the problems they maintained were caused as a result of those attacks. That could be debated.

Nearly seven years on, as one airline after another files for bankruptcy protection or shuts down, what’s left of the big boys are crying, again. So, what do they do? Instead of catering to those millions of passengers, they charge more and they’re seeking mergers faster than gasoline prices can rise at the pumps. Oh, yes, the oil companies are enjoying greater profits at the same time.

So, when we last left off, we had multi airline collapses. Several airlines cancelled flights due to faults in the way they maintain or don’t maintain their equipment (AKA aircraft). If one continues to outsource to El Salvador, then what do you expect?

The airlines cut capacity reducing the size of the aircrafts on most routes. United and American charge $2.00 per bag to check in at the curb. Nice. They are all united (no pun intended) by charging us to check through a second bag, thinking that will remedy their problems. The already strapped American consumer has no choice. While Southwest Airlines, the darling of the industry, continues to transport more Americans, and inflict less pain on the traveling public, the older carriers just throw more gasoline on the fire. How much pain can the traveling public endure?

Earlier today, a friend sent me some links to old airline commercials now housed in the great repository on the web, You Tube. There I saw old Pan Am and Eastern Airlines spots. Frank Borman, former head of Eastern standing in front of crew members (or actors) on the tarmac, tellings us how much they cared. Eastern is now gone. And, then there was a very nice Pan Am spot, circa 1958, showcasing the new luxury jetliner, with all the fine amenities the international traveler covets.

It seems that Delta, Northwest, United, American, Continental and US Airways are all lining up to merge with anyone they can. Delta and Northwest are starting down that dangerous road. United was rebuffed by Continental, so it’s going to try, once again, with US Airways, the rubbish of the airline industry. It wasn’t too long ago that America West and US Airways ‘merged.’ We’re still feeling the after shocks. Anyone traveling the ‘new’ US Airways continues to feel the pain. American is trying to rope Continental in with British Airways, once the darling of the international airline business and now the most-disliked, in a Bermuda-triangle alliance, if the regulators allow it, BA gets AA and CO’s gateways – significant for CO, they get more access to London Heathrow, the armpit of airports these days.

The current head of Delta, of course, promises better service, and will improve their seats, which his predecessor previously promised, but, we’re reading about ‘building value’ and surviving. The magic year is 2010. That’s a long way off and a lot of pain to inflict on us until those newer and better seats, which most international carriers have had in their fleet for years!

But, the airlines have failed in the customer service category. AA’s recent debacle, now being blamed on the FAA, is a perfect example. If they don’t have a disaster recovery plan, then the customer is not safe. And, on US airlines, I don’t feel safe.

Not even the extra $25 for the second bag will rectify that.

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