About that proposed Continental-United Airlines merger. My latest struggles as a passenger on another airline, American, offer evidence that while the players are congratulating themselves for their humongous financial deal, we need to make sure this really isn't another raw deal for the passengers.
American is not up their at the top of my favorites right now. Going to Miami last week, I got in 11 hours late. Coming back, eight hours. In both cases, the reasons were mechanical breakdowns, which raises questions in my mind about the quality of maintenance and/or the condition of the fleet.
What makes this noteworthy is that's it quite ordinary, no matter which airline. That is particularly true of the so-called "legacy" ones like American, along with Continental and United.
A huge reason for the lengthy delays we so routinely suffer is that there no flights on which to re book within a semi-reasonable time. The ever-consolidating airlines cut flights, increase fares, charge onerous fees for checked baggage and whatever else they can squeeze out of us. They leave their abused customers in the lurch, or in this case, the concourse, trying to re book.
To their credit, the executives of the new Continental-United behemoth make no bones about the fact that less competition will mean higher they can charge higher prices for fewer flights. Doesn't that simply make things worse?
It is true that the upstarts of today, Jet Blue, Southwest, Air Tran, give the big guys fits, but not enough to relieve the giants' smothering dominance.
How many of us would like to voluntarily place ourselves on a No-Fly list? Wishful thinking. Unfortunately, we all sometimes have to get from here to beyond driving distances. We have no choice but to grit our teeth as we endure long lines at the ticket counter and security to board planes where the seats require yoga proficiency. And when was the last time anyone of us took a fight that wasn't overbooked?
It's easy to see why the airlines are held in about the same regard as health insurance companies. They have a similar business model, the Like-It-Or-Lump-It model.
There was a lot of debate over the movie "Up In The Air"...how good it was or wasn't. George Clooney's character was such a frequent flier that he automatically got the royal treatment. Still, the film had a fatal flaw: His planes actually took off. There was no mention of the delays and mechanical breakdowns that are an inescapable fact of life for those who fly commercial. No wonder our country's corporate titans cling to their private jets willing to endure the scorn of us commoners who must suffer the travails of commercial flights.
This deterioration has been decades in the making. In the 70's one of the promises of deregulation to increase competition. That has been turned inside out. Now the there are fewer and fewer choices and the newest merger will dwindle them down even more. Should we consider re-regulation?
The hapless passenger is left holding the air sick bag. Oh and by the way, don't be surprised if soon they start charging you for air sick bags.