Sunday, March 14, 2010

Re-Regulating the Airlines, Part III

(Please see parts I and II below)

In part II, I ended by listing what I believe are the factors that have caused airline deregulation to unravel.  Let me deal with two of them in this part of the series.

The self-defeating tactics of airline management and unions...

A number of years ago, American Airlines wanted to change its work rules.  Unions would not go along.  So, AA management decided to “teach the unions a lesson” and selected five cities (one was Wichita), and convert them to American Eagle propeller service from all-jets. Since AA’s pilot union didn’t fly Eagle jets, it was a warning.  After a year or so of this nonsense, they settled the dispute and the jets returned to Wichita and the other cities.  But, during this period – for the first time as a Wichita resident – I drove to Dallas.  I didn’t like the props, I didn’t like what was then the shabby Eagle terminal, so I drove.  Stupid of management…revenue lost and my 100% habit of flying to Dallas was interrupted. While it would take years, now I drive to Dallas 100% of the time. It has been at least five years since I have flown to Dallas (note: I have flown through Dallas).

Fast forward to the United Airlines “summers from hell” in 2000 and 2001 when UA’s pilot union decided to hold their customers hostage by refusing overtime and paralyzing the system while denying they were doing it.  I don’t dispute the union’s right to strike.  I do resent being lied to by UA pilots (I asked several directly) as to whether a job action was in progress so I could plan accordingly. Guess what?  After consistently flying to Omaha on business (via Denver on United), I started driving. I haven’t flown since. Not once. I travel to Omaha 1-3 times per year. 

Since September 11th, due to layoffs, give-backs, etc., airline employee attitudes have gone from “fair” to intollerably bad.  Airline “service” is non-existent.  As I have previously written, I, for the most part, would rather deal with a ‘virtual’ airline employee than the real thing.

No one, management or union, in the airline industry seems to realize that there is a penalty for terrible attitudes and that is that people can choose not to fly unless they have to. I have read that Thanksgiving 2009 airline travel was down 60% when compared to the levels of Thanksgiving 2000. The loss of sixty percent of your customers means the industry’s very survival is at stake.  While the nonsense of the TSA has something to do with this, the airlines bear, by far, the largest responsibility.

And, given the current regulatory environment, things are not likely to change for the better.

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