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The US Airline Industry: Time for a Makeover


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The US Airline Industry: Time for a Makeover
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Moogs
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Join Date: May 2004
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2008-08-14, 18:45

Obviously the airlines operate on razor-thin to no profits some years and it's a complicated business that has to deal with the same BS fuel costs the rest of us do... but this...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7562165.stm

...seriously pisses me off and makes me wonder which other airlines are doing this. US airlines have a nasty habit of cutting corners, either on their employees or their flight ops and ground ops, when economics get harsh. However this is one industry that should never operate in this way for obvious reasons. Clothes makers cut corners our socks get holes in them... airlines cut corners and 400 people die at a time.

I don't know what the answer is but clearly private competition doesn't seem to work, nor does government operation work. The industry needs restructuring and probably that means all kinds of zoning laws and airport operators need to get their asses kicked into shape too. Somewhere out there there are rules in place that someone is benefitting from, that is making it impossible for airlines to operate like other successful businesses in hiring the best people, etc and never cutting corners.

...into the light of a dark black night.
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Bryson
Rocket Surgeon
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Whitby
 
2008-08-14, 19:23

Perhaps at the same time someone could explain to them that it is possible to have enhanced security and good customer service.

It never fails to amaze me that the US population, who usually demand (and get!) considerably better customer service than any European country, is prepared to put up with the surliness, rudeness and sheer arrogance that airport employees display nowadays. All in the name of "security".

All discussion of whether that security is warranted or not aside, why are they incapable of carrying it out with a smile and behaving politely and like a service provider?
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Chinney
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Ottawa, ON
 
2008-08-14, 19:35

I used to find flying on an airline flight was something special and a pleasure. Now it is, at best, a hassle, and usually much worse. Of course, in relative terms, it is cheaper now. I guess that you get what you pay for.

Last edited by Chinney : 2008-08-15 at 08:26.
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2008-08-14, 19:54

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryson View Post
Perhaps at the same time someone could explain to them that it is possible to have enhanced security and good customer service.

It never fails to amaze me that the US population, who usually demand (and get!) considerably better customer service than any European country, is prepared to put up with the surliness, rudeness and sheer arrogance that airport employees display nowadays. All in the name of "security".

All discussion of whether that security is warranted or not aside, why are they incapable of carrying it out with a smile and behaving politely and like a service provider?
It's simple - they have no reason to.

1) The TSA doesn't give a shit if you have a flight or not. They just don't. Their job is to keep you from the interior of the airport, regardless of what your concerns are.

2) The airline has your money. In all but a few cases, it's nonrefundable. Being held up at security is not a valid reason for you to get a refund, in any case. You miss the flight for any reason, too bad.

3) If you demand 'good service', in the form of politeness, or, god forbid, a thinking individual in a uniform to discuss something with, they simply will MAKE SURE you miss your flight as punishment for daring to speak up. Plain and simple.

Bottom line: you have no recourse. If you say anything, you run the very real risk of missing your flight, losing your money, and not having anyone give a rat's ass.

You're powerless. Welcome to the land of the free.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
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Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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pscates2.0
Mr. Farmiga
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2008-08-14, 19:55

I agree. I wrote about this a few weeks ago in another thread. Flying has become about the worst, most un-fun, pain-in-the-ass thing I can imagine doing. I used to think it was pretty neat, but there's nothing good about it anymore.



From the time you arrive at the airport until you land at your destination and walk back out of that airport, it's just one soul-crushing, WTF?! moment after another.



I would honestly, given a choice, opt for somewhat major oral surgery tomorrow morning at 8:00am over catching a flight from Atlanta to Denver or somewhere a few hours away at the same time (even if it was free). I really would. You know, and accept, going into the surgery that it's going to hurt and possibly be bad.

But you're in a comfortable chair and you can actually lie back a bit, they get you high, you're somewhat pampered and you're in the hands of a trained, dialed-in professional who isn't screwing around and who is taking the task at hand seriously (he hasn't been drinking that morning).

None of those are the case with flying, from what I can tell.

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scratt
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2008-08-14, 20:33

Last time I flew out of the UK I was amazed that everyone had to take their shoes off (obviously a throw back from the shoe-bomber). Last time I flew out it was simply if they were suspicious they'd pull you to one side and check your shoes etc.

Asia on the other hand is so laid back it's ridiculous. I have to wonder how it can be so friendly, laid back, and still safe in Asia. But it's been that way for years.

At Gatwick to their credit the security staff were friendly, made a bit of a joke of the whole thing, and a sort of WWII "we're all in this together" British spirit kind of pervaded the whole chain of people. This included the passengers all smiling at each other how ridiculous this all seemed, and the security staff kind of acknowledging that it was a pain in the ass, especially if you had kids and bags and stuff.... and being helpful. I was stoked at how human security were.

This was at Gatwick Airport. Don't expect that at Heathrow.
But if you do fly out of the UK try and get that outgoing flight from Gatwick.
The airport is clean, the hotels are near-by, there is plenty of parking.
The security is firm, as good as it needs to be, and friendly. Amazing!

Why couldn't other airports follow Gatwick's model?
The way that airports and airlines (United I am looking at you) in the US treat you. Frankly the way they have always treated you, and this goes back 15 - 20 years when I used to fly through LA and Hawaii and so on a lot, is unbelievably discourteous.
For a country that is based on such high service standards it has always confused and infuriated me.
Like Kick says they seem to be there goading you to try and get a reaction so they can punish you.
I have reacted badly to security officials before, and I have ended up in a row with them.
Frankly it's one of the reasons I won't go to the US anymore. I don't want to be treated that way. I don't want to be fingerprinted. And I don't want to be shot or tazered - which with my temperament would happen within a few minutes of landing, I am sure!

'Remember, measure life by the moments that take your breath away, not by how many breaths you take'
Extreme Sports Cafe | ESC's blog | scratt's blog | @thescratt
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Moogs
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Join Date: May 2004
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2008-08-14, 22:35

Security is definitely an issue but I was more talking about the way the airlines run their companies and they way the maintain (or not) their aircraft, etc. The business model is clearly broken and maybe the answer is, no more commoditized travel. Maybe you should have luxury airlines like you have luxury cars, mid-class airlines, and economy airlines (which we do have). But the price points much different.

It would have repercussions on business too, if the luxury airlines were the only ones to make multiple flights per day between all the big business centers. Businesses would have to decide how important it really is to send people all over the place and my guess is, a lot of travel would be cut back because when you're really look at it through the eyes of what can be accomplished over the wire... it's a lot of posturing and superfluous crap.

Maybe instead of cutting jobs to "reduce costs / restructure costs", companies would drastically cut non-essential travel budgets. Heh... anyway, some out of the cubicle thinking is needed at a systemic level. The hows and whos the airlines cater to and structure things around, is all wrong. And the way airports unfairly control their gate access is also all wrong. Someone needs to blow that business model to smithereens and start fresh.

...into the light of a dark black night.
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Souflay123
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2008-08-14, 22:48

you do mean... virgin america....
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noleli2
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2008-08-14, 22:54

The airlines really need to coordinate schedules. I'm flying from Detroit to Atlanta next week, and when I was looking for flights there were flights scheduled on the same route only 5 or 10 minutes apart. You could pretty much get a flight every half hour or so (thought admittedly there were some that weren't non-stop).

I don't believe for a minute that there's that kind of demand for that route. Guess that explains why I got a one-way DTW->ATL for $99.50 including everything.
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Moogs
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2008-08-14, 23:29

Quote:
Originally Posted by Souflay123 View Post
you do mean... virgin america....
Wrong airline... BA (not Virgin) has made an alliance with American, coordinating routes, fares, etc.
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Souflay123
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2008-08-15, 00:14

No, what I am referring to is that the american airline's, so AA, jet-blue, delta.... Need to be more like Virgin America. I usually fly with Jet Blue, but when I went to NYC it was going to be like 950 to fly there, I have a free flight but they changed their policy that you can just use it whenever, that you have dates when you can use your flight. So I looked in the VA, they were going to be like 6-something so we went with them. VA is uber nice, their people are nice, the planes are nice, the entire experience was wonderful. even with limited flights and the such, they are still much much nicer than flying with AA or any of the others, and about the same cost
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Moogs
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2008-08-15, 08:13

Oh I see. Sorry about that. Yah, good examples of doing things differently. Maybe the ownership structure is what's wrong with airlines too. Get a heavy bank-roller and maybe you have the opportunity to run things differently. Will check that out.

...into the light of a dark black night.
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apple007
BANNED
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Join Date: May 2006
 
2008-08-15, 19:53

To me, the biggest problem with the older U.S. airlines is simply that their unions have gotten shafted so many times in the last decade -- pay cuts, layoffs, callbacks, more layoffs, more pay cuts, etc., etc. -- that most of their workers just don't seem to give a damn anymore. They know no one expects to be treated well these days, so why make the extra effort to prove customers wrong?
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Kraetos
Lovable Bastard
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2008-08-15, 20:01

The problem is, airlines have nothing to compete on but price. That means cutting corners.

Do you really think an airline with superior customer service would last a second in todays economy? These days, everyone just wants the cheapest tickets. We vote with our wallets, and the airlines oblige.

That's all there really is too it. The people who can afford the better customer service, safety, and convenience fly private. The rest of us shop on Orbitz.com. In every other sector, there's a slightly more expensive alternative between the cheapest of the cheap and the top-shelf stuff. But as far as I can tell, there is no middle in the airline industry.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope
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apple007
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2008-08-15, 20:30

... but that doesn't explain jetBlue's success. They've managed to provide good service at low prices for years now. (Obviously, it helps that they haven't been saddled by bad labor agreements, old planes, etc., etc.)
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
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2008-08-15, 20:55

Quote:
Originally Posted by apple007 View Post
... but that doesn't explain jetBlue's success. They've managed to provide good service at low prices for years now.
Exactly. Politeness is free. Keeping your customers informed over the PA? Free. I don't care if I get a blanket, as long as I get a smile.
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Moogs
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2008-08-16, 08:11

...and a happy ending from her



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