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Gather ‘round me children, and I’ll tell you a tale. Believe it or not, there was a time, not so long ago, when an airplane trip was considered a pleasure.
No, no, don’t laugh – it’s true! There were pillows to comfort you, snacks were freely handed out to passengers, there was no charge to have your luggage go on the trip with you, many flights were available to places you wanted to go, numerous airlines competed to win your business – and customers were actually treated as people who were valued.
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Sadly, the corporate chieftains of American air travel now scoff at the quaint notion that passengers are more than just freight. Actually, being treated as freight might be an upgrade!
Three decades ago, airline executives convinced Washington to deregulate the industry, promising that the magic of free enterprise would work wonders for the flying public. Behold the wonders: the airlines merged to eliminate competition, and, in this decade alone, CEOs have cut hundreds of flights, fired more than a hundred thousand of their employees, jammed fliers like sardines into their planes, abandoned any semblance of service, hiked ticket costs, imposed so many fees that the idea of coin-operated toilets is no longer far-fetched, taken shortcuts on safety, made endless delays the norm, and turned the friendly skies into tin tubes of passenger fury.
Now, with millions of passengers fed up, the geniuses who run this industry have come up with a plan: cut more flights, fire more employees, further reduce service, raise fares, and nickel-and-dime customers with more fees.
Meanwhile, CEOs are pulling down multimillion-dollar paychecks, doling out bonuses in the executive suites, and trying to think of creative new ways to shrink their industry, deliver less for higher prices, and drive away all of those annoying passengers.
“Cartoon by Steve Kelley re-printed in the Austin American Statesman,” blog.nola.com, June 6, 2008.
“Airlines Rush to Go Small,” New York Times, June 6, 2008