Notes from the future

So the price of gas is going nowhere but up (you may have noticed). I boldly predict that trend will continue for the foreseeable future. This, in turn, means the airlines are going to have major problems in short order. There are going to be fewer passengers as they are forced to increase the prices to compensate. They will then begin the wailing and gnashing of teeth and file for bankruptcy. Congress will then write them a check for a few hundred million dollars to get them back on their feet. Not a loan mind you, a gift. A gift that you and I don't get and will never get. I have zero sympathy for them. I ought to know, I used to work for one. They are stupid beyond imagining. They know they'll never be allowed to fail if they get big enough. The smaller carriers will come and go but someone is always going to get a big piggy check from the government taxpayers to keep flying. How dumb are they? Let's go to Ed Cone for more:

The picture at far left is the view forward from row 11 on this evening's 6:50 United flight from Chicago to GSO (I missed my original connection). The picture next to it is the view to the rear of row 11. (Click images to enlarge)

What's going on? An industry that has forgotten about customer service.

Almost nobody opted to pay $30 bucks extra to sit in "economy plus," which promises a few inches of extra legroom. When it became clear that the flight would be packed six across from row 11 back while row after row sat empty in the front, people asked if they could move up. The flight attendants said no, you have to pay for those seats. Not very customer-friendly or situationally aware, but comprehensible.

So a guy asks if he could pay on the spot. Nope. People were laughing at the United's cluelessness, but it wasn't very friendly laughter.

Salable When the drink cart came by I bought myself $5 worth of stress relief and asked the flight attendant (politely) why she could sell me a drink but not a seat. She looked at me like I had two heads and said they are in no way set up to take reservations, you have to do that with a service representative.

I started to say I didn't want a reservation, I wanted to hand her $30 and move up one freaking row, but it felt like I was on the phone with Bangalore and couldn't get a supervisor, so I just shut up and drank.

The flight attendant stewardessess have been trained by BF Skinner apparently and don't know or care that they have actual customers. Rather, they figure they have your money and they have certain steps 1 - 14 that must be followed. Nothing changes. Ever. No further thinking required. As Dennis Miller likes to say, they traded their adult lives for free airfare and now they're waitresses at a bad restaurant at 25,000 feet.

There are a thousand things wrong with the airline industry. None of them cannot be fixed by letting them all fail and start over. No exclusivity at hubs allowed. Competition reigns supreme. No absurd union rules about flight time etc. Departure has to mean wheels off the ground not pulling away from the gate and then immediately moving back to let the crew off to eat dinner. (Many times the "mechanical problems" cited for being late are not that at all. Union rules require that flight crews have an hour to eat a meal after X hours of flight time. Frequently, they'll board the passengers, pull away from the gate thereby meeting FAA requirements for "on time" and then move back to the gate. You sit and wait while the crew goes for dinner. If you're lucky they don't take the full hour. Oh, and a swing crew will babysit you while you wait.)


Brian Shields said…
It probably has to do with the TSA, and their scrutiny of the passenger's whereabouts, and having complete control of knowing exactly where each passenger sits in case of an incident, accident, or otherwise.

But, with modern technology, how hard is it for the airlines to install a computer-like device where they can update that information on the fly, and have it satellite uplinked to a server. Instantly it could be updated that Mr. Jones has moved from S3 to F2, payed an increased fee to move, and it was allowed because Mr. Jones isn't on the watch list, etc.

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