Sunday, June 24, 2007

Holiday rant...(OT)

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.

Labels: ,


Blogger stump said...

Well said. I haven't flown since well before 9/11 and since that day I have no intention of doing so. This has nothing at all to do with the airline industry it is due to my concerns about the actions of the KGB. sorry, I mean the Department of Homeland Security, my bad. I don't even drive a car anymore. For better or worse I am relying on an Electric Bike for all of my transportation needs. The better is happening already, against all reason at the age of 48 I am doing something healthy. Hooda thunk it. The worst I'm sure will be the winter time. The electric bike will allow me to ride with out pedalling near as much so I shouldn't work up a sweat in heavier clothes. At least thats my theory. Really enjoy the blog and again what you said made alot of sense. Hadn't realized that most airlines went the way of Walmart. I can't wait to hear someone complain about the airlines now. I will pass along your thoughts and smile when I do. Stump in SC agrees that the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off due to budget cuts.

1:26 AM  
Blogger Ed W said...

Thanks for your comments, Stump. I'll be doing a piece about winter riding when the weather starts turning cool here, probably October or November. There are one or two of those in the archives already if you're interested.

5:22 AM  
Blogger stump said...

Ed, I have a question you might be able to answer about dogs due to your work in electronics. Would the 800 watt hub motor on my bike be causing dogs to go nuts. Every dog I ride by, seen or unseen goes crazy. I've also noticed reactions from the horses on our farm. By the way I'm in South Carolina now but I'm from Robinson Tahnship. I was reading your archived posts about winter riding and noticed you are also from Picksburgh. Yinz can contact me at if you prefer. Go Stillers

1:53 AM  
Blogger Apertome said...

I read this post a few days ago and have been thinking about it since. I see things very differently.

First of all, let me say that I truly am sorry that you and many others had to take a pay cut, or worse. I am sympathetic. And it sucks that the execs end up getting ridiculous salaries instead of the employees who have taken a pay cut.

However, this is not my fault, nor is it any other passenger's fault. It's common in many kinds of business. It's unfair, but it's a fact of life.

Your rant reminded me of all the reasons I hate flying: getting treated like crap by airline employees, delays, canceled flights, lost baggage, going through security, cramped quarters, etc.

The thing is, I'm not looking for luxury service. I'm looking to get to my destination, on time, with my belongings, and I want to be treated with a little respect. I ask for very little. I just want the service I paid for, as described. You shouldn't have to pay twice as much for a first-class ticket to get what you're paying for with a cheaper ticket (and notice that first-class service really wouldn't improve any of the items I listed above, anyway).

I am sorry that you have had to suffer because your industry went through a difficult time. It happens in any industry. It happened in mine (Web development) when the .com bubble burst. It sucked, and I ended up doing other kinds of work for several years afterward.

But the truth is, things were artificially rosy for a while beforehand. Sooner or later, the scales were going to tip. And I suspect the same is true of the airlines. In that case, 9/11 happened to be what put things in motion, but I really think the changes were a long time coming.

I guess my point is, don't blame customers for something that was caused by a lack of foresight on the part of upper management.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...


Thanks for the thoughtful, reasoned reply. I was ambivalent about posting that rant. That's why I sat on it so long. And you're right - I shouldn't dump on our customers as management has dumped on us employees. If it's unfair for them to do it, it's no less unfair for me.

And for Stump...

Electric motors spin at very high rpms. I suspect the whine is MUCH more apparent to dogs as their hearing extends well above ours. But even when I've been on my fixed gear, a notably quiet bike, dogs still react to me even if they're blinded by a privacy fence.

Hmmm...maybe it's time to do another couple of dog stories! But first, I have to finish the latest Wally Crankset tale. It's about 95% done and I'll probably get it posted before the weekend.

6:03 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home