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OPINION: I argue that the LA Times has it all wrong!

Be more like US Airway's PSA livery and smile when flying!

Be more like US Airway's PSA livery and smile when flying!

This morning I read a column with the LA Times that just makes me frustrated. Normally complaints and drama get ratings in media, I understand that. But when people just bitch and moan about the airline business with nothing to back up their claims just because it is the popular thing to do, it gets me going.

Passengers and most media forget how complex running an airline can be. Sometimes when I read articles like this I like to comment and argue their points (but the LA Times doesn’t allow that), others I just complain on Twitter (which I did). But in David Lazarus’ recent piece I feel like I really want to argue his complaints of the airline business. Luckily I run this blog, so I am able to do it…here I go:

“A report out Monday found that U.S. airlines did a whole lot better last year getting passengers where they’re going and not losing people’s bags in the process. And maybe that’s true.”

My thoughts: First off, it is good that he gave the industry a compliment. But what I don’t get is questioning if it is even true. IT IS TRUE!!! Airlines lost less luggage in 2009 than in previous years. Why go about questioning facts that put the airline industry in a positive light?

“Or maybe we’re just so used to being miserable from the moment we set foot in the airport, we’re not complaining anymore. We’re just taking it.”

My thoughts: I know I might be biased since I love to travel and flying, but I get excited while at the airport. Yes, waiting in lines, going through security theater and dealing with people everywhere can be quite annoying. But when you look around at the other passengers in the terminal and think in a few hours, they will be all over the world, that is pretty amazing. The fact that I get into an airplane and can travel faster and farther than anyone in history just for a few bucks? That is pretty amazing as well. Try riding Greyhound and tell me about the experience.

“You know the drill: fees for checked bags, fees for food, fees for headphones, cramped seats that laugh at any notion of comfort or personal space.”

My thoughts: Small seats and no personal space is a constant complaint that passengers have. But how much did you pay for your ticket? $125 one way to fly across the country? Or maybe a $99 special? Space still does exist in the form of Business and First Class, but comes at a price. Space and seats get smaller, because the demand for a smaller ticket price comes from customers. Customers know what they are getting into with fees and they shouldn’t really be surprises anymore.

“Personally, I can’t understand how any business can get away with selling more of a product than it can possibly offer. Oh, I get why airlines would want to do it: Why carry the risk of a passenger not showing up for a seat when you can offload that risk to the passengers who do? But isn’t selling something that you won’t have — in this case, sufficient capacity for everyone who wants a seat — a breach of contract or an act of fraud? Apparently not, insofar as airlines warn in advance that they may pull something like this, and federal authorities say that’s good enough for them.”

My thoughts: Airlines want full planes. If they know that almost every flight has passengers that won’t show up, doesn’t it make sense to overbook? Those extra tickets are extra revenue, which means your ticket price is lower. If airlines only sold the exact number of seats they have, then your ticket price goes up. Every time I have been on an overbooked flight, the airline offers free trips and great benefits, where there is almost always some passenger more than happy to take.

“Speaking of mean, showing a movie on a flight lasting more than three hours but charging a few bucks for cheapo plastic earbuds is about as money-grubbing as an airline can get.”

My thoughts: To me, this is almost as far away from “as money-grubbing as an airline can get.” Most airlines, during long flights, will play a movie for free. Then, if you have your own headset, you can use it. If you don’t have your own headset, they will sell you one for a few bucks (last few times I have purchased one, it was $1). If they just handed them out for free, that means people who brought headsets would be paying (via their ticket) for people that didn’t. Now, that just doesn’t seem fair to me.

“Always board the back of the plane first. It’s just dumb to allow people to clog up the aisle as they wrestle those ubiquitous wheelie bags into the overhead bin.”

My thoughts: Unless I am mistaken, most airlines already do this? I also seem them do quite well at making sure people board during the proper time and don’t let people sneak on early.

“And maybe it’s time to rethink carry-on bags altogether. By charging $25 or more for each checked bag, airlines are prompting savvy passengers to try to beat the system with ever-larger carry-on bags. This makes boarding and disembarking an increasingly time-consuming process.” Ok, I agree with him here. But then a few lines down he continues with, “And Spirit Airlines saying it will start charging up to $45 for carry-on bags — what, are you kidding me? Aside from that being wrong, it’s just plain mean.”

My thoughts: You can’t have it both ways. You don’t want as many carry-ons, but then you don’t want fees for them to be limited? Do you want to pay to fly another passenger’s bag if you don’t have one yourself? I already argued why Spirit Airline’s fees sort of makes sense.

“As for these ‘cashless’ flights that have become the industry norm, maybe a little wiggle room wouldn’t be such a bad thing. How about if passengers could purchase vouchers at the gate if they expect to need cheapo plastic earbuds or a little snack while trapped in the cabin?”

My thoughts: Cash is a big pain. Flight attendants have to spend time trying to find change, deal with the cash after a flight and honestly, cash is so 1990′s. Almost everyone has a card of some sort (credit, debit) and if you want headphones or food you can just use you card. For me, accepting credit cards is a big benefit versus cash. Don’t have a card? I am sure another passenger will be more than happy to take your cash and use their card (at least I know I would).

“Will the friendly skies ever return? … I’d settle for the halfway-honest skies.”

My thoughts: I have talked about this before, but can’t restate it enough. Airlines do not make decisions in a vacuum. They change things based on customer demand. Why don’t airlines provide free meals  and more legroom anymore? Because it costs them more money, which means their fares cost more. Most times you can actually find those amenities in the front of the plane for an extra cost. Customers have shown they don’t care how they are treated, as long as they get the lowest fare possible. If there should be any blame, it should be given to the customers, not the airlines for meeting customer demand. Do I like sitting in a small seat with just peanuts across country? Heck no. Do I like only spending $300 for a round trip ticket across country? Heck yes I do.

I think I will email Mr. Lazarus this blog and hopefully he can see a different perspective towards the airline business.

Image: Willamor Media

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16 comments to OPINION: I argue that the LA Times has it all wrong!

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