Passengers Are Being Heard—Finally.
Charlie Laocha is the creator and president of Travelers United, the national advocacy organization for the traveling public. He testified recently before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, chaired by Congressman Frank LoBiando, a Republican from New Jersey. Charlie’s appearance was an encouraging sign because this committee usually hears testimony from CEOs of airlines and cruise lines and hotel chains—the moguls of the travel industry.
Charlie’s a writer, and a good one, so his testimony was straight forward and direct. Plain language, but respectful. He focused on air travel, but only touched on the superficial stuff most of us grumble about: the crowded flights, shrinking legroom, and nickel-and-diming with the extra fees.
Instead, Charlie called the committees’s attention to an issue that I never thought about enough to be resentful: the alliances formed by the big airlines that make it difficult for the smaller ones to get take-off and landing slots and international airports. That stifles competition and that keeps fares high. He also pointed out that the airlines publish their fares, but are no longer required to publish their fees, making it very difficult for us ordinary folks to accurately compare what our cost will be.
(As an aside, we should all be very wary of the current campaign to eliminate “burdensome” regulations, many of which are there to prevent big companies from screwing ordinary folks like you and me.)
There was more—this is a link to Charlie’s complete testimony—but the bottom line is that the airlines are taking advantage of air travelers. In little ways, to be sure—like proposed increases in airport fees that are quietly passed along to us—but there are a lot of them and they add up.
Here’s what struck me most of all about Charlie’s testimony: the very first sentence:
“Thank you, Chairman LoBiando, for giving passengers a seat at this hearing.”
Passengers—that’s you and me—finally have a seat at the table. Through advocacy organizations like Travelers United and NARP, our voices are being heard. Why? And why now?
Actor Peter Finch’s iconic character Howard Beale said it best in the 1976 film, Network, when he bellowed “We’re mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore!”