A Practical Solution to Airline Service Hell

By Robert Mark on July 5th, 2022

Everyone knows airline flying stopped being fun 20 or 30 years ago once a deregulated industry realized just how cheaply they could package and sell their product.

Along with searching for a low-price fare these days, we’ve all had to get used to the generally lousy customer service that comes with packed airplanes. When was the last time an airline employee listened to anything you said without responding there was nothing they could do about it?

Then flying went from bad to worse when COVID-19 hit in the early months of 2020 and demand fell off the edge of the planet. It didn’t take the airlines long to solve the problem as they tried to rid themselves of staff they wouldn’t need to pay as hundreds of aircraft were grounded. They offered thousands of pilots the opportunity to take early retirement, despite the $54 Billion the U.S. government shelled out to keep layoffs to a minimum. Many accepted the deal before the airlines realized they’d collectively shot

Courtesy IMGFLIP

themselves in the foot. Near Labor Day 2020, the airlines also collectively began to realize they were going to need more pilots soon … much sooner than they’d ever thought.

 

Oops

Since Memorial Day this year, the need for pilots became dire as the airlines began canceling 10s of thousands of flights, stranding passengers everywhere. My daughter was on her way home from JFK to ORD that weekend when American canceled her flight after she and her fellow passengers sit at JFK for nearly four hours without so much as a sandwich or a cup of coffee. It took her two and a half days to finally make it to ORD. On July 3rd, the airlines canceled about 1,500 flights.

Just when most travelers thought airline flying could not possibly get worse, it did as inflation saw ticket prices skyrocket. Strangely, at least to me, people kept buying overpriced tickets, although I have a feeling that’s about to end. In addition to higher fares, packed airplanes, and lousy customer service, the airlines have now descended to another new low spot … they’ve become unreliable.

But at least the U.S. airlines are still safe with almost no passenger fatalities in more than a decade. But how much longer can they continue raising prices on a product they often can’t even deliver?

The Morning Answer Had the Answer

I had this discussion with a couple of Chicago radio hosts on AM560 last week – Dan Proft and Amy Jacobson on Chicago’s Morning Answer. To be transparent, the morning radio pair have invited me to their show quite a few times to help translate airplane speak into English for listeners.

Near the end of the interview, Amy mentioned a vacation of hers to Orlando with the family had recently run afoul of a last-minute cancellation. “Why do they even list flights if they don’t have enough pilots?” she wondered.

I often wondered the same thing, but I don’t even pretend to understand airline yield management. But her comment stuck in my head and by the end of the segment, I knew I needed to wrap things up as Dan wondered if there was anything passengers might look forward to this year.

That’s when I realized Amy already had a practical answer. But was anyone from one of the big airlines even listening to one customer’s feedback?  “If the airlines don’t think they’ll have the crew to staff a flight, don’t list the damned thing in the first place.” Why bait us with four flights each day from ORD to MCO … just list the two you know you can operate.

Imagine if anyone at United, Delta, American or Southwest took Amy’s suggestion to heart and offered us all a little relief. What do you think?

Rob Mark, Publisher

BTW, thanks Amy.

@amyjacobson, @danproft,@morninganswer

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One Response to “A Practical Solution to Airline Service Hell”

  1. Grant McHerron Says:

    Airlines will offer as many flights as they can to behave like vaccuum devices slurping up as many customers as possible. Better them than the competition who might be (gawds forbid!) showing only flights they know they can staff.

    The dodgy ones will juggle all the pax into a flight or two (or push to tomorrow) but will dance the “we made some $$$” dance with every purchase!

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