Thursday, September 20, 2007


It came as no surprise.

Yesterday Karen was flying back home from Boston on the infamous Northworst Airlines. For reasons known only to the airline gods the flight, of course, took off late. When it landed in Detroit Karen had only a few minutes to make the next flight. No one at the gate offered her any information or, god forbid, offered to call ahead. She ran like the wind to her new departure gate. She arrived with the plane still sitting at the gate. Tough luck, said the gate attendant, we've closed the door and we're not opening it for just one person (how many persons are necessary, I wonder, but we'll save that for another day). Did Northworst offer any sort of apology? Hell no. Why would they. Shoot, this little incident was nothing to an airline happy to leave people trapped in their planes for hours on end.

Every hour of every day average American flyers are held hostages by the the numerous airlines who could give a hoot what happens to their customers. After all, what is the alternative, walk across the country?

Those same big airlines, of course, get millions of tax payers money for subsidies as they turn a blind eye to our complaints. Customer service is a concept that seems to have dropped out of the vocabulary of most American airlines (I must say I've had good luck with Midwest Airlines).

Of course the real corporate big shots don't have to worry about flight problems, they just hop on their private or corporate plane and off they go.

Most of us really can't do that, however. Oddly, we seem to think our time is just as important as theirs, but, of course, we are wrong.

Our time is worth nothing.

Now the airlines will blame it on increased passenger numbers and an over extended flight control system. You know what. I don't care. Fix it. And while your fixing it, at least show some respect to your passengers. Buy me dinner, give me a drink, do something to show you give a rip about me and millions like me.

But the truth is cutting back hard on customer service is what makes an airline most profitable?

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, 2006 was the worst year in history for airline flight delays, and 2007 is on track to be even worse. In the first six months of this year, 27 percent of flights were late or canceled, the worst score since the government began tracking the data in 1995. Duh!

Ironically while Karen was being mistreated by Northworst, the Detroit Free Press reported Northwest Airlines employees will undergo intensive training to improve customer service, according to CEO Doug Steenland.

“It’s the largest training initiative in over a decade with a focus on customer experience,” Steenland said during a half-hour speech to industry executives.

“It’s an interdisciplinary program that makes sure they see travel experience through the eyes of customers,” he said.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Oh by the way, let's not think it's just the airline employees have all suddenly become uncaring out of the blue. Industry wide salary cuts of epic proportions, and (the worst sin of all) airlines canceling pension plans because they've robbed the fund of hundreds of millions have left them shell shocked, depressed, disillusioned and resentful.

In other words, they are not any happier then we are.

Airline executives on the other hand, well, they're not so unhappy.

After 20 months of restructuring Northwest Airlines has came out of bankruptcy and began to trade on the NYSE in late May 2007. Northwest's CEO Doug Steenland exited the bankruptcy with a big pay package. On top of Steenland's salary, reported at $516,384 dollars last year, he will get a total compensation package of more than $26.6 million in stock. That's $5.8 million in stock options and $20.8 million worth of restricted stocks that will vest over the next four years. Northwest workers bore the brunt of the restructuring — after a $1.4 billion a year cut in labor expenses — pilots and flight attendant wages were cut by between 20 and 40 percent.

In 2006, the Chairman and CEO of United Airlines, a certain Glenn Tilton, received $39.7 million in compensation. That was the year when United Airlines LOST $152 million and also terminated the pensions of its 120,000 workers. Tilton earns 1,000 times what a United flight attendant at the top of the scale takes home. They now earn an average salary of about $31,000. New hires make about half that, which means Tilton earns 2,000 times what newbies do.

During American's annual stockholder meeting, chief executive Gerard J. Arpey
said that the $160 million in stock awards given to top executives and managers was a motivational tool.

Again, I'd be happy if one day an airline that caused me to miss a connection coughed up a little of that motivational money and just said, "Hey, we'll buy you dinner and a drink while you wait for your new flight."

The following is from the ultra left Washington Times.

Plane passengers air their grievances
By Andrew Richards

Airline customers tired of flight delays, being stranded on runways and other problems with the industry came to the District yesterday to rally for a federal "passengers" bill of rights."

The Coalition for an Airline Passengers" Bill of Rights (CAPBOR) wants the House and Senate to pass legislation that would guarantee air passengers the right to exit a plane that has been sitting on the tarmac for more than 3 hours.

The dozens of passenger activists who converged on the Mall yesterday brought with them a portable mock-up of a smelly plane section — designed to simulate what passengers have to endure after nine-plus hours of sitting in a stagnant airplane.

"If we can"t get Congress to the tarmacs, then we"ll bring the tarmacs to Congress," said CAPBOR founder Kate Hanni. "Congress ought to have an opportunity to sit inside a jet. Since their time is very limited, if they could sit in here for five or 10 minutes, they would get the idea of how horrible this is because we re-created what it would be like."

Mrs. Hanni, a Napa, Calif., real-estate broker, became an activist after spending nine hours on a grounded plane in December.

She and her husband, Tim, and two sons were headed to Alabama on Dec. 29 but ended up being stuck on the runway in Austin, Texas.

Since then, she"s taken up the passenger cause full time, lobbying Congress and working with Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Mike Thompson, both California Democrats, on the bill of rights.

Some of the bill's language has already been adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA now requires that "a covered air carrier operating an aircraft in air transportation shall provide for the essential needs of passengers at all times during which the aircraft is on the ground in the event of a departure or arrival delay, including the needs of passengers for food and water."

Protester Melissa Wheeler, 23, an insurance agent, was also trapped in a plane that day in Austin — and for four hours longer than the Hannis.

The airline, she said, told her that the weather was the reason she was stuck in a plane for 13 hours. She said she now travels with a "big bag of food because I am scared to death it could happen again."

"No one should be held on a plane against their will. No one should suffer what these folks had to suffer," said Mr. Thompson. "The more you peel back the skin of an onion, the more tears come to your eyes. We found out this happens more and more and more. It wasn't that long ago when the airline industry promised Congress that they would take of these issues themselves, and we all know that promise didn't come to fruition."

1 comment:

Renegade Eye said...

I live in Minneapolis, where NW is based. They have a monopoly on the flights out of Minneapolis-St. Paul; making flights more expensive.