Monday, March 15, 2010

Re-Regulating the Airlines, Part IV

(Please see parts I, II, and III below)

Right now, the air traveler has two alternatives:  A private jet or steerage in the domestic U.S. airlines (first class isn’t worth paying for, it has become a joke given the level of service versus the prices charged). There has to be a market for something in-between right? 

Let's assume that a new airline wanted to start tomorrow that was going to solve all of the attitude problems and service problems and make their customers happy.

First of all, the airline passenger would still have to deal with the “security theatre” of the TSA.  I have previously written about my proposal for reforming the TSA. Unfortunately, its chances of passage are slim to none because the politicians are scared to death that if something goes wrong, their election opponents would use their vote to dial back the TSA against them.

So, the unpleasant experience would still begin the moment you arrive at the airport.

The new airline planned to allow customers to bring on three carryon bags, with special Boeing-approved and designed larger bins for customers who wished to use them and allow their customers to carry on a third carryon.  In return, the airline was going to charge $50 more for this enhanced service.  Great idea, right?

Can't do it!  Why?  The airlines lobbied the FAA to disallow it.  Existing airlines don't want some upstart to offer better service! The government interferes with the marketplace. So, even though the airline wanted to improve options for customers, it is not allowed to do it.

Once in flight, even though the airline is trying to give gracious service, they still have to make the mandatory messages about putting down headrests (so the flight attendents can see terrorists sitting in the seats), not congregating in the aisles or near the restrooms, etc., etc., that are offensive to many frequent fliers.  This frequent flier (and numerous others I have spoken with) wants to sit back and work or read, not listen to the FA’s jabber with government-mandated messages.  Think about it:  Would someone wanting to do harm to a plane in flight be deterred because the flight attendant told them to "put down their headrests"?  

So, the level of “improved service” (gracious, minimum of interruptions by the in-flight staff) could be – at best – only incremental versus its competitors. 

But that isn’t the biggest problem with our new "Service Airlines," as we see in the next installment in this series.

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