John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Re-Regulate the Airlines

Posted on August 6, 2010
Five minutes.  That was the amount of time that my connecting flight had to wait to allow me to get off my plane that was two hours late because of a weather delay.  Five minutes.  How is that for customer service?

To the airline industry, the customer is far down the list of people to please.  On the top of the list, of course, are shareholders.  Then perhaps, members of the board.  Then, whatever politicians whose palms need to be greased.  Then, the CEOs, who get paid outrageous sums of money to get whatever last dime they can get out of the poor suckers who have to fly to get somewhere.

Because of the slot system, the airlines all pretty much have a bunch of mini-monopolies, so they can treat the customer like complete crap.

United Airlines is a case in point.  They charge you extra if you want to wait only 15 minutes in a security line, as opposed to 30 minutes.  They charge you extra if you want an aisle seat.  They charge you 25 bucks for your luggage, and if your luggage happens to be a couple of pounds overweight, they charge you a 100 bucks.  They ask you if you want to pay 58 bucks for an additional 46000 miles for your frequent flyer miles, not telling you in the process that it is almost impossible to use those frequent flyer miles.  They charge you 10 bucks for a bunch of almost inedible “snacks,” but if you are sitting at the back of the plane, whoops, they don’t have any snacks to sell you anyway.

They limit sharply the number of flights that are available so they can pack everybody into the plane, but the seats get smaller as the people get bigger.

It would be fine and dandy for United to treat their customers like crap if they had some real competition for certain routes, but they really don’t.  There is no competition, so they can continue to gouge their customers, treating them not like they were kings, but rather like suckers that deserve to be ripped off.

Yes, there needs to be more competition from the likes of high-speed rail.  That may help give the airlines a wake-up call that they need to think about their customers first.  But in the meantime, the airlines need to be re-regulated with the customer in mind.

I am not a big fan of regulation, but I am even less of a fan of getting abused by an airline industry that puts the customer last, and their CEOs' huge pay increases first.