Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Long Day 

It was a long day yesterday, but whenever one wants to complain about time on airplanes, there is sure to be someone who has spent more. And, there was. On the leg home last night, I met a young couple on their third flight of the day. The first was from Sydney, Australia to San Francisco. The second from San Francisco to Chicago and the third from Chicago to Newark. At the point I met them, they had spent about 17 hours in the air, and they had an hour and a half to go.

Even though yesterday's flights were on time with only one 10-minute delay, it struck me that airlines today have opened themselves up to any competitor who can offer legroom and some minimal comfort to passengers. The flights I was on charged an additional fee for more leg room, another fee for business class and still another fee for first class. Those of us who rode in coach were crammed in without apology.

Airlines have destroyed their relationships with the public. Some of the destruction is not their fault, but much of it is. They never adjusted to an era of open competition. On the other hand, neither did passengers. We assume certain levels of comfort on airplanes that, perhaps, we have no right to expect. The result, however, is that passengers are unhappy with cramped seating, minimal service, delayed flights and an attitude that implies "live with it." They'll move to other carriers when they have opportunity. The only safety for many airlines is that the opportunity for their passengers to leave is not there -- yet.

It's an odd way to do business, and I wouldn't want to be the PR person at an airline who has to explain all this to the public.


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