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Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007 02:17 pm

Unfriendly skies

Yes, bad airline service is another evil corporate plot

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Untitled Document Travel in some primitive parts of the world is a nightmare — passengers are treated like livestock, service is surly, rules are ridiculous, delays are common, and the whole experience is dreadful. Luckily, here in sophisticated America, we have modern airlines — on which passengers are treated like livestock, service is surly, rules are ridiculous, delays are common, and the whole experience is dreadful.
Airline executives publicly blame everything from the impact of 9/11 to bad weather, but when these executives talk to shareholders and the business media, they gleefully confess that they have deliberately created such unpleasantness as a crude way to jack up their stock prices and profits. For example, although the public demand for air travel has steadily increased, airline honchos have intentionally decreased the number of flights. That’s the opposite of how a free market economy is supposed to work: If consumer demand is up, companies theoretically respond by increasing supply. But air travel is a monopolistic market, with one or two airlines controlling nearly all airports — so, by cutting the number of available seats, not only can the monopolists create an artificial shortage that raises ticket prices, they also create overbooked flights that have all the charm of cattle cars. Meanwhile, they’ve also made drastic cuts in staff, leading to more breakdowns and flight delays, as well as to less service for customers. The staff that remains has had its wages and benefits slashed, which doesn’t help morale. And to make employees even more surly, CEOs have started paying themselves millions of dollars in bonuses.
On the basis of these manipulations, one airline president enthusiastically told shareholders, “We see an encouraging revenue environment.” Sure, boss — and we passengers see a discouraging decline into primitive levels of travel. Thanks for nothing. 

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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