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Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Jim Campbell, Apr 12, 2014.

  1. ok,i feel it is probably better to hear from industry insiders than protect my fragile ego,so....hopefully we can keep the personal stuff out....i have stated publicly that airlines have been treating passengers like cattle since they now can blame it all on terrorism....perhaps it is the airlines,perhaps the regulatory bodies....i guess i'll find out

    however i read all too often of destroyed baggage,unsympathetic treatment of passenger complaints,and a definite shift from the friendly skies to the ""careful or we'll turn this thing around and call the marshalls....
  2. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I'm actually starting to notice a trend going back the other way... now that all of the airlines are on the same playing field, they're starting to realize that service is starting to matter again.

    My recent flights on United have been pleasant and they're putting some noticeable effort into customer service... still not Pre-9/11 levels, but they're getting there.

    Still no match for non-American airlines. Some of these UAL guys need to fly on Emirates to see what customer service REALLY looks like.
  3. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Airline flying today is definitely not what it was pre 9/11. Increased security at airports is a big bone of contention with passengers and rightly so. Take off your shoes. Take off your belt. Take out your laptop. All of this has created congestion and the requirement to arrive at the airport long before your flight departs. The cost of additional airport security services has been passed on to the airlines, which in turn pass it on to the passengers.

    About three years ago, a project was launched that looked at the passenger experience, from arrival at airport, checkin, passing through security, checks at the departure gate and boarding the aircraft. The project looks at making that whole passenger experience more streamlined and passenger friendly.

    Today, as many of you know, can check in a couple of days before departure and either get your boarding card in a PDF format, or it is sent to your smart phone where you simply show the screen. That greatly reduced line ups at many airports. Some markets have been slower at adopting new technologies.

    With regards to security checks, the project proposes a completely new process that eliminates the strip down and emptying of bags. Airports will eventually see three small tunnels, through which airport security personnel will direct passengers. Each tunnel is roughly 20 feet long and about 8-9 feet in diameter. The three tunnels offer varying degrees of security measures. Airport staff with decide who goes through which tunnel.

    At the time of inception, there was no technology in place to provide such complete scanning capability. But, it is under development and actually could be use as I write this.

    As for airline service quality, that varies from country to country. In USA, the airline industry was highly regulated until the early 70's. Once the market was opened up, competition became fierce and all kinds of consolidation took place. I'm sure some you may remember Ozark, Allegheny, Braniff, Reno Air, PSA, etc. Too much capacity forced aggressive pricing. Aggressive pricing put too many out of business. In recent years, Northwest and Continental have disappeared.

    In Canada, Freedom to Move was legislation that lead to more competition. Prior to this, no airline in Canada could compete on more than 30% of Air Canada's routes. Like the USA, competition flourished and many vanished: Canadian, Nationair, Jetsgo, Canada 3000, Wardair, Nordair, Quebecair, Transair, etc. Canada being a much smaller market, could not sustain more than one full service airline.

    Back....to the OP. If Air Canada is the carrier you reference from your experience of declined service, I fully agree that their service has tanked. And sadly so. It was a great airline. 9/11 did have a dramatic impact on the industry and it took 3-4 years before profitability levels returned to pre 9/11. Back around 2003-4, Air Canada started to focus on being more of a low cost airline. Westjet firmly put them into that corner. Air Canada was one of 2-3 airlines in the entire industry that dramatically reduced the number of airlines they interlinked with, simply because interlining passengers means reduced yield per ticket. They followed a model that Aer Lingus adopted as Ryanair put pressure on their home market. For Aer Lingus, it was a brilliant strategy and it worked. It was such a successful turn around that their then president, Willie Walsh, was scooped by big brother British Airways, to be their president.

    Air Canada then launched menu pricing. At one time, the airlines would run ads with super cheap pricing and you would have to call the airline to book. of course, there were never any seats. Airlines have since stopped that and now show you the price is seats in different flights for you to choose. Air Canada took that a step further and started menu pricing for meals, aisle seats, window seats, extra bags. Seemingly nickel and dimming you to death. But, to consumers, it made them feel they were in control of pricing and bought just what they wanted. Unbeknownst, such ancillary services, when totalled up, produced higher yields for the airlines.

    The low cost model forced legacy airlines to wake up for three reasons. First, low cost airlines were stealing market share. Second, low cost airlines were actually growing the market, stealing from highway traffic. It became cheaper to fly than to drive long distances. And third and most importantly for airlines, it was a profitable business model that can sustain itself year round.

    The airline industry is a funny business. For airlines, it's capital intensive with marginal returns. The only companies that make money in the airline industry are everything other than the airlines. Fuel companies, ground handlers, airports, air traffic control, insurance, blah, blah blah.

    Yes, service levels have declined. not due to terrorism, but for reasons I have stated above.

    You have asked for people in the industry to chime in. I have been in the industry for thirty three years, but I no longer work for an airline. I have worked for five airlines, both in Canada and abroad and I special in industry relations and financial settlement. I have worked in operations, airports, marketing, route analysis, code shares, joint ventures and partnerships. I have taught airline economics.

    But.....I would much rather being playing bass in a three piece rock band in a biker bar. That, will be happening fairly soon as we are putting a new band together. My regular Monday night pub gig is in it's fourth year.

    So.....yes service has declined. But not for terrorism reasons. The shift is strategic in the aim of profitability.
  4. well that's a far more conciliatory stance than before.....my original point regarding the herding seems to be at least partly borne out by what is here....i would suggest that today's stressed out cabin crews are far less likely to brook any complaints from customers these days,as they simply don't have to any more....after the fact the complaint process seems very lop sided.....from a customer standpoint it would be difficult not to notice.....

    just following the saga of the united customer who watched in horror as baggage handlers gleefully destroyed his prized martin,seems to suggest that air lines are fully aware that your options are limited and you are just going to have to take what you get........

    i'm not sure why it is such a sin for a customer to voice disapproval of a service they pay for....frankly i think the flying public has every right to feel that way....i'm not saying that every flight is a nightmare,but it sure ain't what it used to be....need every customer complaint require a mountain of documentation, comparison studies,stats,and so forth...

    ...there have been more than a few incidents of planes redirected and passengers removed....while i don't doubt that most deserved it, i find myself asking if the situation would have escalated to that point had cabin crew been more inclined toward to the way things used to be....i doubt that most passengers these days would dare to challenge air crew on even a small matter ,even if they were in the right....
  5. Hi.


  6. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003

    That's how they spell it in Winterpeg.
  7. Hi.


  8. oh lord not another typo.....must call suicide prevention again.........i just can't take it any more....the horror ,the horror
  9. Stewie26

    Stewie26 Supporting Member

    Old guy here. My best memories of flying pre-911.

  10. here you're more likely to get some foreign dude in a turban....
  11. cacophonic


    Mar 18, 2008
    San Francisco
    To my knowledge no airline has used a "terrorism card" (as you put it in another thread) to mistreat its customers. Can you can cite specific cases?

    Lost baggage: the industry (USA) averages about 5 claims per thousand, or about 1/2%. Sure, it should be doing better, but, really, is 1/2% all THAT bad?

    I didn't quite understand what you meant by the "call the marshalls" comment--care to elaborate?

    Generally speaking, bmc seems to have addressed many of your concerns. I would add the following:

    Therein lies the crux of the biscuit. The market for airline travel is extremely price-sensitive and the industry is sustained by yields that provide barely razor-thin margins. Customers complain about service but they have repeatedly proved that, given a choice between cheap airfares and better service, they are unwilling to pay more for the latter. The airlines have learned a hard lesson which, to paraphrase an old adage, can be summed-up thusly "don't try to educate the customer, just give him what he's willing to pay for." Airline passengers, meanwhile, would do well to keep in mind another old saw "ya gets whatcha pays fer."

    Lastly, except for issues specifically related to passenger security and screening (over which the airlines have no control), complaints about airline service are pretty-much the same in nature now as they were before 9/11.

  12. lost baggage i can understand,it's the callous treatment of the rest of it i don't get....i loaded lots of trucks in my youth,but never felt the need to smash stuff....check out the martin guitar guy....there used to be dozens of options for shipping,now only a few,and while i used to be able to ship uncrated amps across the country,undamaged,i wouldn't try that with a paperback novel today.competition is healthy,monopoly not,and the air line/freight businesses are real light on competition...

    no one at corporate hq would ever publicly blame terrorism for what many view as a decline service.....but it's there,and staff really don't really have to care if you're happy when you leave....whatever you attribute it to it's there.....i place a certain amount of it on the terrorism card....you don't..... ok........indifference at the complaint department is almost universal these days,not just air lines.....fewer and fewer choices means that for every unhappy customer you lose,you probably get one back from the other guy.....so why try....

    air lines don't have a lot of control over screening,and perhaps i misspoke on that ,but that does not alter any ones overall experience once you enter the airport.....you get to stand in line,assume the position and then hurriedly stuff everything back in your pocket while someone is breathing down your neck....we used to get that mostly from the customs guys,but now it's on every flight....

    sur charges...the government here had to enact some kind of truth in pricing act......and for government to do that someone must have noticed it besides me.....

    overbooking,bumping.....i didn't pull that out of a hat....

    i don't recall as much of that pre 911....maybe the decline has been more gradual....

    i'm not sure why it is more important to take me to task over my "mistaken" impressions as a customer than it is to try to find solutions for problems that many others find to exist....
  13. cacophonic


    Mar 18, 2008
    San Francisco
    Indeed, no one at corporate HQ has done so--YOU did. But you have yet to provide specific examples to support that claim.

    Most, if not all, US airlines now make fare breakdowns available for customers so that taxes and fees (which together constitute about 20% of the price of a ticket) along with surcharges, are easier to sort out.

    Directly related to capacity/demand ratio. bmc noted that capacity has been drastically reduced industry-wide since 9/11, and as demand rebounds and average load factors exceed 90%, an increase in oversells and bumps becomes an unfortunate yet inevitable consequence. Seat inventory is perishable and the airlines are not going to let a seat go unoccupied if they can help it. That leads to overbooking, and occasionally, bumping. It's a vexing problem, yes, but the market has not been receptive to viable solutions.

    Never said it was.
  14. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    You have asked for industry people to chime in. I can tell you that terrorism has never been a reason for a decline in service. I know that's your perception and I thought and hoped that having industry people tell you tell you differently might change your perception.

    Within Canada, Westjet and Air Transat service has remained consistent pre and post 9/11. Air Canada has continued to evolve, or devolve, their service for strategic reasons in the aim of making money. Blaming terrorism makes no sense from my perspective and I am in frequent contact with senior people at airlines the world over.

    The quality of air travel outside if Canada and USA has not been affected, certainly not since 9/11 or playing the terrorism card. Having oil jumps to over $109 a barrel has had far more impact than terrorism.

    In flight, there have been no terrorism related changes except for air Marshall's in the USA. The airport experience, baggage screening measures are all activities controlled by airports and not airlines. That said, airline security is a huge issue for the Industry. Huge issue and huge cost. European carriers did not change menus on flights because of terrorism in the states. We enjoy good service in Europe in a far more competitive environment than North America. There are all kinds of low cost airlines and lots of legacy airlines flying in Europe offering varying degrees if service.

    Wrapping up, yes service has declined significantly in North America. The reason is not linked to terrorism. Its linked to higher user charges due to increased infrastructure imposed due to terrorism. When costs go up, you try to increase revenue or cut costs. Ancillary revenue through menu pricing has helped and generates many millions of dollars in North America. Not carrying heavy cutlery and plates reduces weight that hopefully translates into less fuel burn. Adding new winglets onto airlines because they reduce fuel burn cost $10 million per airplane to modify. But, there is payback by reducing fuel burn. None of this has anything to do with terrorism. I agree service quality is a bit of an oxymoron these days in certain markets, but it has little to do with terrorism.
  15. There is, I think, another problem.

    The older airlines carry an older, regulated, unionized, cost structure. The newer airlines carry a newer, non-regulated, less unionized, cost structure.

    The older airlines have legacy costs that new airlines simply don't have. And due to de-regulation, it is the most cost efficient airlines that set the prices, rather than the least cost efficient airlines, as in the days of regulation.

    An example is: On a Southwest Airlines, the cabin crew cleans the planes. On UAL, they have a separate cleaning crew do the job. To fly the same plane on the same route, it costs UAL more than it does Southwest. But Southwest sets the fares that UAL has to meet.

    More airlines will go bankrupt, and merge, until cost structures equal out. Or regulation is reimposed to equalize income structures.

    (This was not intended as an anti-union scree. Rather, it is a statement of perceived facts.)

    Play on,

  16. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    You raise some good points. Regulation does not exist, per se, from what airlines can and can't do. Collective agreements continue to be hammered down to bring legacy costs inline with low cost. While Southwest may set fares on competing markets, United uses those markets to feed their hubs to flow traffic to behind destinations. For example, Dallas-Chicago could see agressive pricing for traffic on that route. But United is using those flights for flow traffic to London, Paris, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Tokyo. The end to end revenue of a Dallas Hong Kong passenger is substantially more than a local Dallas-Chicao passenger. Furthermore, by the time they prorate the revenue across all sectors, the long haul passenger may give higher yield than the local market passenger. Furthermore, United is a member of the Star Alliance, a collective group of 30 or so airlines. They all feed each other. So you'll see Singapore, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Swiss, etc feeding United.

    Legacy airlines have their hubs, that Southwest does not have. Southwest has a strong network, but they focus and price on a sector by sector basis. Southwest is a smart airline.

    Labour costs are different between upstart and legacy. As a human being, I find very hard to see peoples wages rolled back, their pensions disappear all in the name of being able to survive to satisfy passengers that don't want to spend more than $20 on a plane ticket.

    The airline business was a sexy industry at one time. Long ago. :rolleyes:
  17. Stewie26

    Stewie26 Supporting Member

    There is an old saying in aviation that goes like this:

    Question: How do you make a small fortune in the aviation business?
    Answer: Start with a bigger one.
  18. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    I recently flew from Indy to Orlando, and back, and on both flights I had excellent service. I didn't like being herded through the anti-terrorism cattle drive, but it is what it is. I had pretty, friendly stewardesses who brought me anything I asked for, and smiled. I flew Southwest Airlines.
  19. cacophonic


    Mar 18, 2008
    San Francisco
    In the past decade it has been fashionable to beat-up on legacy airlines as being obsolete dinosaurs. Some of that criticism was deserved. Much of the focus of legacy airline managements has been to serve their Wall St. overlords (if you will pardon the characterization) rather than their passengers, with predictable results. Yet these large airlines enjoy certain efficiencies that no upstart can match, as bmc touched on. But by far the most important and enduring legacy that those terrible old obsolete unionized legacy airlines have given to the traveling public is a truly astounding safety record (if that matters to anyone).

    The market sets prices, not airlines.

    Are you certain--unless you have access to the actual numbers, how can you determine which airline actually has lower costs for any given segment? You might be surprised.

    Cost structures will never "equal out" and re-regulation ain't gonna happen.

    Your spelling of California might imply otherwise.

  20. cacophonic


    Mar 18, 2008
    San Francisco
    Well-hit to straight-away center... that ball is going, going, GONE!

    Sadly, that time was before you and I came along. :(