THE BLOG

Why American Airlines' Big Public Sad Meltdown is Good

04/11/2008 05:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's one of those weeks where you should be happy to be you. Cause you could be this guy. Or you could be one of the thousands of displaced refugees formally known as American Airlines passengers.

As a (too) frequent flier of AA myself -- way to go three-for-three trips losing my bags! -- my heart goes out to all the stranded travelers. Though, I'm sure the American Airlines automated phone systems and the over-worked, underpaid employees are doing everything they can to make it seem as though they can actually do something for you.

By the way, AA CEO Gerald Arpey says he takes "full responsibility" for failing to meet FAA inspection standards which caused the cancellations. So I'm sure any minute now he's going to break off a piece of his reported $10,201,059 compensation to help pay for the mess. Any minute.

But while you wait...

If you travel with any regularity you know aside from the AA mess this is a crappy time all around for the airline industry.

ATA, Aloha Airlines and Skybus folded within days of each other. With oil toping $110.00 a barrel and fuel the single biggest expense of airlines, expect a few more to be crushed shortly. Add to the mix the safety issues with American and Southwest Airlines. And add to that The Annual Quality Rating Survey conducted by the Aviation Institute at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Wichita State University (or, TAQRS by TAIATUNO&WSU for short) which found that customer complaints over issues like lost bags and delays are up 60% year to year.

It pretty much seems like air travel as we know it is done.

Thank God.

This meltdown is not the horrid end of getting from here to there by plane. What's happening now is more like a self-cleaning oven in that you're not really sure what's going on inside the thing, but you know when you open the door in the morning all that crap that was there before is gonna be gone.

And when the crap is gone -- crap being airlines that can't compete -- there will be fewer carriers carrying fewer people.

Fewer flights means less fuel used, less pollution, less congestion in the air and less noise and traffic around airports. With an antiquated system that carried 769.4 million domestic and international passengers in 2007, fewer flights means better service, more accurate departure and arrival times and, hey, know what? Your bags might even get there when you do.

What do we lose? Convenience. There might not be the flight you want leaving right....NOW! But even that might just be a paper loss. If the airlines can reduce the number of delays and the number of people bumped from overbooked flights, then when you get where you're going might actually be when you're supposed to be there.

So, luck to you stranded American passengers. And know that next week Tuesday when you eventually get where you're going, the beginnings of a better air transport system might actually be waiting for you.