Finneran: Flying Those Friendly Skies……….

Friday, April 14, 2017
Tom Finneran, GoLocalProv MINDSETTER™

United Airlines
So much for the “friendly skies” of United.

Now it’s more like combat.

The story is everywhere and the public anger is real. As it should be.

A customer gets roughed up and dragged off the plane because United Airlines cannot figure out the basics of finance. Nor are they particularly adept at customer relations. In fact, they stink at customer relations. Mealy mouth crap oozes from their executives about “regret” and “re-accommodating our passengers”. Who buys this bs anyway?

The story is simple and it is far too common. United oversold a flight and therefore had to bump passengers from the plane. That this is even allowed to occur is an indictment of federal transportation and aviation regulators. How can a business “sell” what it does not have? If the plane can seat 100 passengers, then sell 100 tickets. Don’t sell 108 or 110. Once they have been sold, you don’t have those seats available so why “sell” them again, other than as a scheme for squeezing more pennies from your bullied customers.

Airline “experts” tell us that a certain percentage of passengers do not show up for their scheduled flights, thus opening up that percentage of seats for re-sale. But the airline has already been paid for the seat I bought and if I don’t show up it’s my loss not theirs. What we have here is the airline deliberately selling the same seat twice. That might get you brownie points with punks from Wall Street but it infuriates your customers.

I can clearly recall an incident from several years ago in which I was informed that I was likely to be bumped from a flight which I had reserved and paid for months in advance. I was more than two hours early in checking in for the flight, a night flight from Florida to Boston, where I had some fairly important business the next day. My dismay turned to fury as I considered the nasty game being played upon innocent customers, forced to accept beggar’s terms from a rotten corporate management. I’ve probably flown forty or more times since that incident and, needless to say, I absolutely refuse to fly on that particular airline ever again.

By the way, USA Today reports that United Airlines made 2.3 billion dollars last year. I offer that tidbit as evidence that even complete idiots can make a buck in America. 

Here’s the deal with air travel today---

It’s expensive. It’s hostile. It’s extremely crowded. The seats are smaller than ever (and I’m a skinny guy). The food stinks. Other than , what is there to complain about?

I reserve my sympathy for a) the customers and b) the ticket agents and the flight crews. Those agents and flight crews are put in impossible circumstances, unable to exercise even basic customer relations other than “company policy” as put together by bureaucratic fools. I’ve long surmised that the airlines put female employees at the check-in counter at the gate in order to minimize the assaults which would otherwise occur. Most people remain extremely respectful of a woman who has been put into a tough position by her employer. Not so with men……….I suspect that if those check-in counters were manned by men who are constantly forced to explain why you the customer has to get screwed, that there would be a lot of brawls.

The customers of course bear the brunt of this crap. And it need not be such a repetitively tiring experience. 

Customers still marvel at the miracle of travelling across the continent in five or six hours, or of travelling from Boston to Florida in three hours and a few minutes. Customers appreciate the complex technology and science of the machinery, the skill of the pilots, and the patience of the flight staff. They understand winter weather patterns that can cause cancellations and delays. They can even tolerate the occasional mis-directed piece of luggage as an outcome of a massive logistical system.

What they should not be asked or expected to endure is deliberate and gratuitous exploitation. They pay the freight. They deserve a friendly sky. Is anyone in management listening?

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.

  • Jennifer Duffy

    Cook Report

    "We don't really know what a Trump presidency means for the nation, never mind the smallest state.  One of the unintended consequences of last night's results is that Sen. Jack Reed won't be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Chalk that up as a loss for RI."

  • Pam Gencarella

    Head of Ocean State Taxpayers' Association

    "Trump’s win means that his signature issue, illegal immigration, could have a big impact on RI, hopefully reversing our course as a sanctuary state and saving the state taxpayer millions of dollars.  While we agree with his 'repeal and replace' Obamacare stance, we have no idea what that means to the RI debacle known as UHIP.  It is not a stretch to believe that federal funding for this kind of system will be off the table so, will RI be stuck with this massively expensive system that still doesn’t work and that is expected to cost another $124 million to fix?  

    Trump's belief that there is significant fraud in the Food Stamp program and the policies that may come from that belief could have a negative impact on RI's local economy since there are businesses in certain cities that rely heavily on this program, fraud and all. On the upside, we may be able to ditch the UHIP program if there is significantly less need for processing welfare program requests (ie. Medicaid and food stamps) resulting from fewer illegal immigrants and less fraud.  While we are ambivalent about his touted child care policies, if enacted, it may force our legislators to revisit the ever growing state cost of subsidies in this area and possibly reduce the fraud and abuse in this system." 

  • Kay Israel

    Professor at Rhode Island College

    "With a Republican President and Congress, Rhode Island will probably be excluded from the 'fruits of victory."  

    The congressional delegation will be able to vocally make their presence felt, but in the long term it's more symbolic than substantive.  

    For Rhode Island it's a matter of holding on and waiting until '18 or '20 and a surge in Democratic influence."

  • Jennifer Lawless

    Professor at American University

    "The RI congressional delegation just became even less powerful than it was. With unified government, Trump doesn’t need to quell Democrats’ concerns or acquiesce because he’s worried about a Democratically-controlled Senate.

    His appointments will reflect that. His executive orders will affect that. And the conservative policy agenda he puts forward will affect that."

  • Len Lardaro

    Professor at University of Rhode Island

    "Well there's a few things -- because there's not going to be gridlock, that's a big difference if it had been Hillary and a GOP Congress, in which nothing would got done. We'll at least get a half a billion in infrastructure that's going to pass which will have an impact.

    I think you'll see there will be reduced reliance on government nationally -- and that's where we'll stick out like sore thumb. We've relied way too much on government -- and our government is highly inefficient and ineffective.  Maybe, just maybe, in this who cycle of things we might be forced to be small and more efficient for once.

    A couple of other things -- interest rates jumped. The one to follow is the ten year government bond rate -- which is tied to mortgages. It went from 1.7% to 2.05% in one day. The point is -- if the ten year stays high, mortgage rates will start going higher -- and in the short time people will run to re-finance. 

    That's the short term impact -- but then if rates stay hight, that will make mortgages more out of reach. And we just passed a bond issue to limit open space -- housing has limited upside here.
    The next thing -- the Fed Reserve will go ahead with tightening next month. A strong dollar will hurt manufacturing. When the dollar is strong our exports become more expensive overseas. 

    Our goods production sector -- manufacturing and construction -- in the near term will do a little better, but as time goes on will be more limited. But something you won't hear, is there are lags in fiscal policy, of six months to year. So we won't really see the effects until the third our fourth quarter of 2017, going into 2018."

  • Mike Stenhouse

    RI Center for Freedon and Prosperity

    "As the unbelievable turned into reality this morning, it struck me that the presidential election was not really all about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It was about a fed-up people, revolting against a corrupt system - the "beast" - that relentlessly favors insiders. Hillary personified the beast, while Donald personified the slayer.

    Sadly, based on election results in our state, Rhode Island's version of the beast lives on. I fear our political class has not learned the lessons from the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump movements - and will continue with their government-centric, anti-family, anti-business status quo."

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