The airline industry is clearly broken and must be fixed. Nowhere is that more evident than with the recent grounding of multiple Southwest Airline planes followed by American and Delta (and I suspect the other airlines before too many more days). From this flyer’s perspective, however, if Southwest has suffered a fracture, American and Delta Airlines are suffering from multiple compound fractures and are presently on life support.
No wonder the Delta executives are seeking a merger of their airline with another but a merger of any of the commercial airlines would only deteriorate a service(s) that has clearly declined to its lowest level in recent years.
Overbooked planes, cancellations, mechanical problems, lack of service personnel who are mostly stressed, overworked, fearful and uncertain about the future of their jobs should a merger occur, and poor working environments are just a few of the problems I see on a daily basis.
I am a Million Miler/Platinum Flyer with Delta Airlines, a status I’ve earned and maintained for several years. I’m also an Executive Platinum Flyer with American Airlines. Anyone remotely knowledgeable of the Frequent Flyer programs at commercial airlines would recognize that, to earn the highest possible status with not one but two commercial airlines and to do so repeatedly every year, means that I spend a great deal of my life on commercial airplanes and fly more than enough to qualify as a knowledgeable observer of the kind of service commercial airlines provide the public.
For more than a decade, my work in philanthropy and fundraising has taken me across this country forty-plus weeks out of every year. Like a host of other business travelers, I depend on the reliability of the airline industry to deliver me safely and on time to my destinations. Historically, they have. But, in the last few years, the service has deteriorated and the delays and cancellations are so frequent that I do not know from day-to-day whether I will arrive at my destinations on time or even at all.
I write this article with no axe to grind or rage to vent, although I do understand why there is much anger and frustration witnessed daily in airport terminals all over the US as disappointed travelers find their planes and plans delayed, disrupted, and, in many cases, cancelled altogether.
I am pleading with Congress, therefore, or some Congressional-appointed entity, to investigate and intervene before a regrettable disaster occurs. My observation is that the commercial airplanes are not only increasingly dirty and dysfunctional inside the cabins themselves but are repeatedly being grounded because of mechanical problems due to fact that the planes are overworked and under-maintained.
Take the issue of reliability, for example. In the nature of my work, I might need to be in New York on Monday, Dallas on Tuesday, Miami on Wednesday, and Denver on Thursday before returning home on Friday. A similar schedule is generally repeated dozens of weeks each year, although the destinations may differ each week. Clearly I rely on the reliability of these planes. In fact, my business depends on the airlines.
In the last few weeks alone, however, few of my flights have departed or arrived on time. Because some arrivals are so late, I frequently miss important meetings resulting in lost revenue to my company, as well as wasted time, expense, and travel on my part. And, I am just one among millions of businesses and business travelers who, if trends continue, must find alternative ways to do business. In many ways, our economy has become an “air-economy.” Without air travel reliability, many businesses would likely be forced to go out-of-business.
Delta has now earned the reputation for having more delayed and cancelled flights of any airline in the industry, a status they’ve worked hard to earn and don’t appear to be making much headway in changing. The service Delta provides is increasingly subpar, too, especially for business travelers. In this regard, American has now the best upgrade program and, when upgraded, you can expect to be served a nice meal and, very often, fresh-baked cookies. Not on Delta, however. At one time, they had the best upgrade program in the industry. Today it is the worst and, unless you are traveling on a long, extended flight, you will not be served a meal in the First Class section at all.
In the last couple of years, there has been a quantum leap in the number of mechanical problems on airlines, especially Delta, resulting in chronic delays and a rise in the frequency of flight cancellations. In the past, if a mechanical problem occurred and your flight was canceled, it was not so difficult to catch the next flight. In recent years, however, the airplanes are often over-sold, over-crowded and few seats are available to accommodate even the business traveler—and, the occasional traveler might have to wait a day or two before resuming his or her plans.
Therefore, given the delays and disruption of airline travel, I am pleading with Congress to step-in and force the airline industry to fix their problems before a disaster occurs. Please help and help NOW!