I've been sitting on this piece since last month, undecided about posting it. This morning, I saw yet another of the “airline customer service sucks” articles in the business section, and I got mad all over again. Last week, the pilots tossed their union president out of office. He wanted a 30% wage increase in order to bring the pilots back to their previous salaries. The pilots said that wasn't enough and they ousted him. There's an enormous reservoir of anger among all unionized employee groups, and the pilots actions are merely the opening salvo in what will be a nasty labor conflict.
Memorial Day 2007
It's a holiday for most people. A long weekend for barbecue, a trip to the lake, or maybe a visit with relatives and friends.
For many, it's just another day on the job. Someone has to work at the gas station. Someone has to flip burgers and wait on tables. And for many of us in the airline industry, it's a workday like any other workday. But it wasn't always like this.
I won't go over the problems the carriers have faced since 9/11/2001. That's pretty much common knowledge. And it's widely known that most of us have taken deep cuts to our wages, benefits, and retirements since then. I lost vacation days, sick days, holidays, and took a 20% pay cut. That hurt. It still hurts. And I'm one of the lucky ones. Other airline workers lost much more. These steps were deemed necessary at the time, but since then various airline management groups have rewarded themselves for turning their companies around toward profitability. Our upper management awarded themselves millions while those of us who made greater sacrifices were given nothing.
And that pisses me off.
It especially rankles when the news trots out the obligatory story about the decline in airline service. Sure, passengers get upset when a flight is delayed or canceled. They get upset about lost baggage, airport congestion, and even the absence of a free bag of peanuts. Pardon me for being blunt, but why should we give a rat's ass?
Look, you want luxury service for Wal-Mart prices. If you don't get the lowest seat price from one airline, you'll get it from another one. The seat is a commodity not unlike that bottle of shampoo in the grocery store, and you want to buy it as cheaply as possible. That's fine and it's totally understandable. But you don't expect the clerk – pardon me, sales associate – at Wallie World to give you the same personalized service that you'd get from an expensive hair salon down the street. It's no different in the airline business. You can get luxury seats and high-quality service if you're willing to pay for them. But since the carriers seem to be locked into a race to the bottom, pursuing market share with cheap seats and holding costs down by squeezing their own employees, don't expect much from us.
So if you get bumped from a flight or if it's delayed, go ahead and bitch about the airlines and their employees. Just realize that they don't really give a shit whether you make it home or not. You got a cheap seat so get in line with the rest of the cattle.