We’re Unhappy. And They Don’t Care.

It seems to me that the airlines have pretty much abandoned traditional competition. They’re all cutting back on service, on leg room, on the number of flights … on all the things that would normally cause them to lose customers to other airlines. That doesn’t seem to be happening in the current environment, however, and it’s probably because they’re ALL doing it. The complaints are increasing in number and in volume, but it really appears that the airlines, collectively, just don’t care.
Consumer groups are kvetching at Delta Airlines, for example, because the airline’s reservations people wait until the last minute to inform customers that the flight they’re on the verge of booking is not actually a Delta flight, but is a “code share” airline. That’s significant for a lot of people, too, because it can mean you’ll be flying an airline you know nothing about and could well be sitting in completely different (i.e.: smaller) equipment.
Hawaiian Airlines has announced that they’re going to reduce leg room in economy class on all the inter-island flights by one inch in order to get two more rows of seats into each plane. With the two-and-three seating configuration on their Boeing 717s, that creates room for another ten people on each flight and, these days, most flights are full. I’d guess the average fare for inter-island flights is probably $75, so there’s the potential for the airline to make an additional $750 on every one of their flights among these islands … and there are more than 150 flights every day. Ka-ching, ka-ching! The math is astounding.
Hawaiian has also announced it will be replacing the existing seats on their 717s with the so-called “slimline” seats. They look pretty skimpy, but not to worry, says an airline industry analyst, it won’t be a problem because Hawaiian’s inter-island flights are only 20-25 minutes long. Translation: we can take it unless the flight lasts more than a half-hour.
Finally, it has been reported in several industry publications that, according to flight attendants, the boarding process has become the most stressful part of any flight … by far. To avoid fees for checked baggage, more people are bringing more bags aboard the plane and the overhead bins cannot possibly accommodate it all. That means the flight attendants have to sort it all out and there’s no possible way that can be done without making people unhappy.
Not that it matters … these days it’s a safe bet that most passengers were unhappy already.