Skies Are Unfriendly for Most Airlines.
Charlie Leocha is a travel writer and a lot more. He’s been a keen observer of the travel industry for a long time and more recently is the founder of Travelers United, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization. Obviously, NARP and Travelers United have a great deal in common in terms of objectives and, therefore, the two organizations have formed a reciprocal membership arrangement.
Increasingly over the past couple of years, Charlie and his organization have been critical of the airline industry, focusing on the decline in service and comfort, and the increase in fees.
(I have to underscore that statement: Charlie’s absolutely right. Service and comfort have declined, while fees have gone up. Give your customers less, but charge them more? How the hell does THAT work?)
The current edition of the Travelers United on-line newsletter has some information that actually shocked me—information gleaned from Air Transport World, which is sort of the unofficial magazine of the airline industry. Charlie reproduced lists of all the domestic airlines that have folded and gone out of business since the early 1980s, either through Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 bankruptcies. Would you care to guess how many airlines were on those lists? Eighty! That’s eight-zero. Eighty airlines including some iconic names: Braniff International. National Airlines, and Pan American World Airways, the gold standard of airlines. All bust. All gone.
Aloha Airlines is on the Chapter 11 list and, ironically, so is the airline that forced them into bankruptcy, Mesa Airlines. Interestingly, Hawaiian Airlines is not on the list, yet they were in Chapter 11 several years ago, got their financial act together, and emerged to become the 11th largest airline in the U.S. today.
But, notes Charlie, there is one U.S. airline that offers low fares, doesn’t have cancellation or change fees and lets you check two bags for free. And—Oh, by the way—the airline has made a profit 44 years in a row! I suppose most of you already know that it’s Southwest Airlines.
The truth is, I have never flown Southwest. There are three reasons for that, two of which are, I suppose, of questionable merit. First, Southwest doesn’t fly to Hawaii and most of my air travel is between here and the West Coast, where I switch to Amtrak. Second, I am in both the American and Hawaiian Airlines frequent flier programs, with around 100,000 miles in each. And, third, Southwest’s founder, Chairman Emeritus and former CEO, Herb Kelleher, was instrumental in killing the original proposal for a Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail line because it would have been competition for his airline. That was twenty-some years ago . . . and yes, you’re damn right I hold a grudge.