Nearly 60 Years Ago, the Airline Industry Was Growing, but Profits Were Not: Changes Today Have Not Improved the Situation
It was May of 1967. The training was scheduled for several new employees of a small West Coast airline called “Bonanza” at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. Bonanza had flights to cities in four Western states, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Most of the routes were not very profitable. However, flights to and from Las Vegas were busy every day of the year. Bonanza’s only competitor for Las Vegas from Los Angeles was Western Airlines. This competition was good for passengers. A one-way ticket was just $16.75.
Most airlines struggled to make a profit in the 1960s. The main reasons were poor management and too many of them. Bonanza had 12 vice-presidents. No one knew their purpose. An industry that was rapidly changing and jet aircraft were rapidly replacing the aging propeller planes.
The only major difference between today’s “cattle care carriers” and those of the past was customer service. Although the “electronic age” had not fully affected the airline industry, the efforts to care for every passenger were far superior. Airline travel is, at its very best, an unpleasant experience today.
Without government oversite and fewer airlines and mergers eliminating competition, these pretenders simply don’t care about their passengers. Their attitude appears to be “fly our airline” or “learn to fly yourself.”
Unnecessary baggage fees, delays, and cancellations without repercussions, nothing is enjoyable about air travel in the 21st century. Over the last few years, the size of the seating has been greatly reduced, adding additional physical discomfort to the situation. The only reason for this change was to increase profits.
After 9/11, your government bailed out the airline industry with your tax dollars. Nearly two years of a pandemic that cost more than a million lives, and the near financial ruin of millions of America’s workers, your taxes were once again given to the most inefficient industry in America.
Over the 4th of July weekend, past bad decisions by management caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights and delays numbering over 12,000. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when government regulations were intact, this type of situation would have been intolerable. The CEOs of every airline involved would have been required to offer the FAA a detailed written explanation. Today, no one cares.
Every individual, every government, and every business learn from their mistakes. Change is critical and intended to bring growth and future success. The truth is that air travel has become less comfortable, more expensive, and less reliable.
Back in the 60s and 70s, business travel was a large part of the weekday travel for most airlines. Today, much of this has been eliminated. Video conferencing has replaced the need for person-to-person contact. Fearing the reaction from large businesses if fares were raised and schedules were changed prevented many of the situations which occur today. Pleasure-related travel composes the majority of today’s passengers. Airline management is fully aware that today’s travelers are at their mercy.
Although I was forced to travel on airlines between 2009 and 2010 for business purposes, my wife and I will never fly again. On a trip in 1998, we were mistreated several times by one of the major airlines. We will never place ourselves in such a miserable situation again. If all airlines declared bankruptcy and went out of business, this might actually be good for the American people.
More qualified businessmen and women would step in and change the direction of some of the worst corporations in America. While airlines operating in other nations are successful and praised by travelers, America’s incompetent airlines continue to become more expensive and less enjoyable.
This problem only exists because your government continues to save their existence. They should be forced to change their policies and place the comfort and safety of their passengers first. Stop protecting corporations that are doomed to fail.
Op-ed by James Turnage, Novelist
CBS News: Thousands of flights canceled in U.S. as air travel breaks pandemic record during Fourth of July weekend
NBC News: Thousands of flights delayed and canceled on busy July Fourth travel weekend; by Julianne McShane