If you have been reading about US airlines recently, particularly United Airlines, you would think that they are all devils.
Well, folks, I have news for you: America’s airlines are doing a fantastic job.
Anyone who has worked with “the public” knows that “the public” can often be confrontational, stupid, provocative, rude and downright frustrating to deal with. And “the public” has overrun the airlines. It is hard to imagine what it is like to be dealing every minute with unlimited hordes of customers, as the airlines do, particularly people who are in transit and expecting and demanding a strict schedule.
Yet still these airlines do their assigned job perfectly well or very well 99.999% of the time. But when something goes wrong, we all hear about it.
This whole anti-airline crusade, particularly against United, is yet another example of the left-wing media attacking another private, profit-making industry with a relentless barrage of negative coverage. This is intended to spark outrage, undermine the private sector, make the do-nothing media look like the good guys and lead to lawsuits and to more government control.
After all, what do we get every time one of these incidents comes up?
Answer: We get a congressional inquiry, or demands for one…
Airlines in America sell 750 million tickets per year. Thus if we end up with just a few stories here and there about unhappy passengers then that is an astonishingly good record.
In addition, most of these stories are the result of misbehaving passengers, but that fact is conveniently omitted from media reports. It is always “the airline” that is blamed.
In the case of the doctor who was dragged off a United flight, we do not really know everything that led up to the incident. But we do know that the doctor has a very troubled past and so probably was a problem to start with. This is something that the media would ignore when seeking to generate the most sensationalist story to smear the airlines.
Then compare the service of the airlines to the horrendous service you get from any government agency, or from government-run Amtrak, and you get the point.
You can fly from New York to San Francisco, often for very low fares, in six hours. Compare that to 72 hours to 80 hours on an Amtrak train that may cost two or three times as much and arrive up to 10 hours late.
Yet we never hear a single media complaint about Amtrak, no, sir. Not a peep. In fact we are told over and over that Amtrak is wonderful and necessary and that Amtrak is trying very hard to give us premium service but just needs a few billion dollars more in taxpayer money… after $70 billion in subsidies over 46 years, that is.
Flying certainly can be frustrating, and for good reason – because so many people fly. Flying is essential in our modern economy in a sprawling nation like America. Even travelers in poor countries are using their airlines more and more often rather than suffering on trains because air travel is very efficient for two big reasons:
*Airlines don’t have to maintain expensive tracks, but just an airport at each end.
*Flying is fast. A train trip of just 1,000 miles may require one or two full-shift crew changes, while a single, smaller airline crew easily covers the same distance in just part of its work day.
These two facts alone explain why airlines can earn profits while passenger trains almost never can.
America’s airlines were DEregulated in 1978. Thus if you wonder why planes are so crowded it is simple to understand – more people than ever have access to affordable air travel. Before deregulation air travel was largely the domain of the wealthy.
Thus we get crowds when airlines cater to the American traveling public with low fares brought on by capitalist competition. And if you don’t like the crowds then buy a first-class seat or better yet don’t fly at all. You are just adding to the problem. Most air travel in America today is discretionary anyway.
The fact is that most Americans are willing to put up with the hassles of air travel because it is such a modern marvel – relatively cheap, very safe and very fast and efficient. And yes, there are sometimes problems. Too bad. Life is imperfect.
The global air travel business is booming. Even Europeans are using budget air travel in huge numbers contrary to the media narrative that everyone in Europe rides trains. In this Nikitas3.com essay about US and Euro train travel, I wrote:
On the other hand you can fly around Europe cheaply on private-sector airlines, like from Rome to Berlin (941 miles, 2 hours flying). Here is an AirBerlin flight that I found immediately on the internet (US dollars): Fare is $96 plus $69 taxes = total $165 round trip. (Look at that 72% tax. And some of that money goes to subsidize the trains, which is classic absurd socialism – the Euros tax efficiency (airlines) to subsidize inefficiency (trains)). So without taxes, the plane fare would be $48 each way.
Meanwhile train tickets are subsidized by Euro governments, not taxed. The Rome-Berlin train ticket is listed on the internet for $206 just for a single adult seat one-way on a 12-hour overnight trip (it makes you groggy just thinking about it). A sleeper cabin is $500 or more. And then you may choose to buy meals which adds to the cost. And rest assured that all food on these trains is expensive, including beer or soda.
Then if you include the taxpayer subsidy, and then add on the tax that you pay for airline tickets, those prices could almost triple. The tax alone on the sleeper cabin would be $360 if train tickets were taxed like airline tickets.
Versus $48 on the airplane, in two hours. Stunning, isn’t it, when you see the actual numbers… And this, friends, is classic socialism which pushes up costs dramatically for virtually every service it offers. Meanwhile the same socialists tell us that free-market capitalism is robbing us all. That is the opposite of the truth.
Then get this – the “high-speed” daytime Rome-Berlin train takes 4 hours longer (15.5 hours, average 61 MPH) than the night train (11.5 hours, average 82 MPH) and you also have to change trains in Munich on the day train (no change on the night train). A 1st class seat on that high-speed train? $660 US dollars. Wow. Throw in the government subsidy and the equivalent of the airline ticket tax and it could be more than $1,500 per seat.
We should be praising America’s airlines for their efficiency and for how FEW stories there are about bad customer experiences relative to the numbers who fly. But you will never hear that from the anti-business media. They just attack, attack, attack in order to boost viewership and readership levels. It is totally selfish on the part of the media.
And if you think that you could work for an airline, then try it and you will find out the truth. You probably wouldn’t last long. It is a tough, un-glamorous job being ‘on the road’ constantly, sleeping in hotels and eating in restaurants… and dealing with a bottomless horde of passengers who sometimes act like angry children.
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