Thursday, February 18, 2010

Airlines wonder why they're going broke?

Had the misfortune to fly to Phoenix this past week for a wedding.

The misfortune had nothing to do with Phoenix, a town I enjoy visiting, or the fact that my nephew was getting married--he's a good guy and he found a jewel of a lady to settle down with.

The misfortune was once again having to deal with an airport system that would give George Orwell a bad case of indigestion, not to mention the shakes.

Compounding this experience was the fact that we flew with American Airlines. As usual, late arriving on both ends of the flight despite severe-clear weather throughout the entire route.

But what really steamed me was having to pay $25 to check one piece of luggage. What pissed me off royally was that if I'd wanted to check a second piece of luggage, it would've been an additional $35 dollars.

I have no brief with the airplane people at American Airlines. None whatsoever. The airplane people are those folks who drive the planes, attend to the passengers, load the bags and fill up the fuel tanks, take my tickets and tell me to "have a nice flight." They are all outstanding, hard-working people.

No, it's the alpha-hotels who run American Airlines. Alpha-hotels like Gerard Arpey, the CEO, and Don Carty, the ex-CEO.

For those of you who are not ex-military or ex-law enforcement, "alpha-hotel" is an acronym for asshole. People like Arpey and Carty sometimes get a bit testy about being called an asshole, so hence, the use of alpha-hotel.

The alpha-hotels who run American Airlines continue to badger the airplane people--those who do the work--into making and taking less so that the executives, who don't know a pitot tube from a pressure gauge or an aileron from an amperage indicator, can make and take more.

In the Air Force, generals who do not have pilot's wings are looked at as little more than political pissants--which they are. After all, the job of the Air Force is to fly airplanes. Everything else around the Air Force is designed to support the air portion of the mission.

Likewise, in the Marine Corps, you will not find a Marine that is afraid of guns and who does not know how to shoot one.

In the Navy, you'll find a lot of Admirals who still think that port is an after dinner alcoholic beverage and starboard is what their grandchildren look at when visiting the planetarium.

Like the Air Force, these pissant admirals and generals often end up in senior management at the Pentagon, where they can do the least amount of harm to the actual warriors out in the real world.

However, at American Airlines, pissants like Arpey, and Carty before him, rise like the proverbial turd floating in an overused toilet bowl to the very top of the organization--put there, in large part, by fellow incompetents who were appointed to the Board of Directors by previous incompetents.

In the military, we used to refer to such antics as a circle-jerk.

Just as pissant admirals and generals look out for each other, often at the expense of the troops, so does today's breed of corporate CEO and board directors.

Who pays?

We do, of course.

We have to pay. Carty sucked the airplane people at American drier than a stadium full of vampires with keys to the blood bank. Arpey, not to be outdone, turned his pencil-pushing hyenas loose and found more scraps of meat here and there from the airplane people (pilots, attendants, mechanics, handlers, etc) that could be picked and gnawed away at.

Then the pencil-pushing hyenas struck gold.

The passengers hadn't been fleeced yet.

So now, no matter what you pay for a ticket on American Airlines, if you want to be able to change clothes when you get to your destination and you have to check that suitcase because it will not fit in the overhead, fork over $25 smackers. That's $50 additional for a round trip.

Think American is finished? Hell, no.

If you want to take a nap and ask for a pillow--that's $8. EIGHT DOLLARS for a pillow you can buy at Walgreens for $2.50 all day and every day. EIGHT DOLLARS for a pillow that you don't even get to keep.

What if you catch a chill on an American Airlines flight and ask for a blanket? $8 more dollars. EIGHT DOLLARS for a blanket you can get at Wal-mart for ONE DOLLAR all day long.

What's next, a surcharge for ringing the bell to get an attendant's attention? A surcharge for saying, "Hello, how are you doing?" to the flight crew as you herd your way into the airplane? How long will it be before there is a surcharge for logging onto the American Airlines website just to see what the newest surcharges are?

I wish I could say American Airlines was the only airline that is doing this, but the sad fact of the matter is that they are not.

But American Airlines got a dumptruck load of our money--public tax dollars--after September 11, 2001 to stay in business. Carty walked around Washington DC with his hand out more than a New York City panhandler. Arpey likes to hint and threaten at bankruptcy and re-organization.

In the midst of the Obama-cession, it boggles my mind how businesses who are struggling insist on raising prices, then whining like a jilted prom queen when customers flip them the finger and shop somewhere else. Or, when customers simply refuse to shop at all.

This is yet another example of what happens when our government gets too involved with our private sector businesses. Businesses begin picking up the bad habits of our government.

Growing up, when times were tough, my parents taught my brother and me that we had to "tighten our belts and watch our spending." Government is just the opposite--they spend more and charge more.

Hey Gerard Arpey! Here's some advice:

Listen to your passengers and customers. I saw two dozen empty seats on our flight. Empty seats don't make money. Discount them. It costs the same to fly that MD-80 from DFW to PHX whether you have two empty seats or 60 empty seats. Making a little money is better than making no money.

Good advice, eh?

That'll be $25 Arpey owes me.

Maybe we customers should start charging businesses for our patronage. . .

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