Traveling has become a crapshoot. If you are flying anywhere, you may get there, and you may not. If they can, they will blame it on the weather, but unless there is a snowstorm in July, in Dallas, most people don’t buy it. Neither do the pilots. A news blurb I watched recently suggested there were not enough pilots to fly all of these flights and the reporter threw out some salary numbers that would make most Americans extremely jealous. The reporter was confrontational with the pilot representative suggesting that he and his colleagues were overpaid and how dare they ask for more money. The question left unanswered by the report was: Is the pilots union seeking more pilots or more money?

I am not here to debate any labor negotiations, but when air service in any country suffers a cancelation rate like the U.S. has recently, policy must be investigated. It may have nothing to do with policy and all to do with hiring practices or operational inadequacies of the various airlines, but my guess is they are not all inept (this may be a stretch). If it is the later and the airlines are simply canceling flights due to…whatever, policy changes can at least make this strategy costly for the airlines. Similar to the whole baby formula issue (which is far from resolved, the nightly news has just moved on), the government can come in and tell the airlines for every canceled flight, you will have to reimburse each passenger four times the ticket value for each hour of delay. If, as an example, this was done, the airlines would be far more careful about scheduling flights.

The whole labor shortage has been discussed in past blogs, but knowing how many underemployed and unemployed people are currently looking for jobs, understanding how many people love to fly, and looking at the military retirements that occur annually, I would venture a bet it is more about airline incompetence, or more likely apathy, that prevents full staffing. Labor policy, as a whole, is a mess in this country. Yet another policy path paved with good intentions that has become a pot-hole filled catastrophe. It may be difficult, from a labor policy perspective, to hire, and then layoff, pilots (or other staff), but again, this is an issue that has not been discussed. If this is a problem, where are the airline executives seeking meetings with Legislators to discuss how to address it.

The cause of these cancelations, and there have been a lot of them, is an occasional story on the nightly news, just as it is during a storm. The difference is these stoppages are not being caused by mother nature, and appear to be continuing. It has been a few years, but I remember when new airlines entered the fray and shook things up. I am not sure what policies have changed, but my suspicion is those airlines would have difficulty today, all due to policies enacted at the request of the airlines, including those relative newcomers. Competition is good for consumers. When any company treats customers poorly, or does not provide an expected level of service, it should breed competition. Policy can help with this by penalizing poor service, tearing down barriers to entry, or other mechanisms. In either case, the customer wins.

Congress needs to start advocating for the consumer, not business.

Categorized as Policy

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