Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

How Low Can You Go?

One fact we all accept is that nobody's ever plumbed the depths of sheer stupidity among so-called "Big Six" airline so-called executives. But reading Tuesday's WALL STREET JOURNAL, I came across a quote that at least establishes a new low for these seaslugs.

The comment was part of Scott McCartney's "Middle Seat" column in the September 4th WSJ regarding the horrible summer delays and cancellations. Since it's commonly agreed that things are not likely to get better any time soon, Mr. McCartney sought inputs from several airlines' best and brightest regarding what action they intend to take to manage their airlines in this environment going forward.

Here's what American Airlines' top marketing guy had to say, taken verbatim from Mr. McCartney's column:

" 'If we hadn't had high load factors, we could have re-accommodated people quickly. If we had high load factors and the operation was OK, we would have been fine,' said Daniel Garton, Executive Vice President of Marketing at AMR
Corp.'s American Airlines. 'Two out of the three factors we could have withstood. But all three together caused the problems we had.'

"American has decided to sell fewer seats on key flights in key markets during busy travel periods so more empty seats are available to rebook customers who miss connections because of late or canceled flights. That will start with Thanksgiving, Mr. Garton said."

So the solution to their problem is to LEAVE SEATS EMPTY on some flights in anticipation of a meltdown?!!?

Funny, I thought the object of any business was to create demand, operate to optimal efficiency to fulfill that demand, and charge as much as the market will bear to make money. I never thought of LEAVING SOME CAPACITY EMPTY in order to make up for your screw-ups elsewhere.

Holy mackerel! The guy must be a genius! No wonder they pay him so much money. The fricking EVP of Marketing, and he lets himself get quoted saying THIS PATHETIC PLOY is their best example of world-class thinking?!!??

I floated this quote, and my reaction to it, around to a number of well-heeled smart guys in business, including some in commercial aviation, who DO know how to make money. I got a lot of feedback, but they were all along the lines of this quote from one of them:

"You are right: This about tops it!"

Mind you, I am not looking for universal agreement to my reaction. I am just trying to figure out whether it's me who's slipped a cog or whether the entire airline industry has lost its grip on reality.

I am sure it's them.

You gotta wonder: Where are the shareholders' voices in this? What kinds of airline Boards of Directors would tolerate this?

Meanwhile, we are doomed to submit ourselves at the airports to the results of their madness week after week because we have no better alternative than to do so.


Blogger dave3 said...

Re: "Funny, I thought the object of any business was to create demand, operate to optimal efficiency to fulfill that demand, and charge as much as the market will bear to make money". Well, yes, creating demand and charging all the market will bear are often the only considerations, but many of your other postings strongly suggest that you don't really like being the 'meat' in those 'grinders' any more than I do!

I, too, was stunned by the AA exec's comment that they might book slightly fewer passengers per flight, not because this was somehow against motherhood and apple pie, but rather because "THIS PATHETIC PLOY", as you called it, is one of the very VERY few customer-considerate actions by an airline in recent years!!! Granted, AA is not Northworst nor Devilta, but AA did break a promise to configure jets with a few more millimeters of leg room before, so I will be happily surprised if they deliver on this "ploy".

As for the idea AA is doing this "to make up for your screw-ups elsewhere", remember that although the airline industry scheduling, etc, is guilty of COLLECTIVELY causing delays, many other delays really are beyond the immediate control of any individual airline (obviously excluding things like NW's refusal to hire sufficient pilots).

And just in case you really are only worried about AA's profits to the exclusion of customer interests, let me point out that (1) probably what he really meant was that they might reduce the percentage of OVER-booked seats, and (2) IF they ever actually do this, the possible net impact could even be positive if they earn a reputation for leaving a few less passengers stranded.

So which is it-- a "pathetic ploy" in a customer-be-damned industry, or one small step towards building business by serving customers a little bit better?

9/08/2007 3:54 AM  
Blogger Alex Cybriwsky said...

I'm the creator of a different breed of travel website, called iGuide, the Interactive Travel Guide. The site blends travel information and multimedia content with a full-screen interactive map.

I would be thankful if you took a look and let me know what you think. I'm currently working on spreading word-of mouth about the site, and any help or suggestions you could give me would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time.

Best regards,
Alex Cybriwsky


6/05/2008 4:16 PM  

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