I have been travelling a lot lately, and it has given me time to reflect on the state of the airline industry (well, the state of British Airways, American Airlines and Southwest). As you probably know, the airline industry is one of the most volatile, least profitable businesses ever. Since 9/11, things have gotten much worse. And the people who pay for the service suffer the most.For example, I do a lot of international travel, which used to be the last refuge of civility in the industry. Long after I had begun to shove other passengers to make sure I had overhead bin space on Southwest, I still looked forward to the pace of the long flights, where they served you real food, gave you eyeshades and slippers, and served free drinks.All that remains on British Airways of that former civility is the free drinks, probably because they hope if we drink enough we will not remember there are no real pillows (they’ve been replaced by cotton wads), no slippers or shades, and barely enough toothpaste to go around a mouthful of teeth.And the food? Unspeakably bad. Sugary fruit cocktail and unrecognizable entrees.Why have things deteriorated so completely? The corporations would blame the workers, the union rules, the fuel prices, and so forth. But I blame marketing, or the absence thereof. Back in the day, when everyone wasn’t global of necessity (this latest trip is a combination of conference, meetings, and grandchild), people had to be enticed to fly. It had to be presented as sophisticated and alluring. My parents actually dressed up for flights. I am wearing Uggs, a tribute to my current conditions.But air travel is now a utility, and the airlines treat us like the gas company does; they provide little more than the service they must to keep us from dying in flight. There is no marketing, because we are going to sign up to fly like we sign up for electricity; we don’t set the price and we no longer get the service.Something’s fundamentally wrong with our economic system, and the airlines are a symptom, not a root cause. I will leave you to draw your own conclusion; I have to put my Uggs back on for landing.
Flying Has Descended to the Depths
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