The TSA and its ever disappointing act

May 26, 2016 on 3:31 pm | In Airline News, Airports, security | 2 Comments

So the TSA doesn’t have enough staff to manage itself appropriately at major airports and expects things to be particularly bad this summer.

Their go-to solution?  Dear Airlines:  Can you drop baggage fees?

Give me a break.  I hate baggage fees at least for the first bag checked and even I think that’s a stupid idea.  The revenue impact that has on the airline is so large that I would actually suggest it more economically smart for the airlines to just fork over money to the TSA to hire people instead.

The TSA hasn’t managed itself competently.  It has a long history of criminal behavior by its officers.   The agency has never competently staffed itself at many airports.

I am reminded of the year I spent one afternoon in San Francisco last fall.  I needed to change terminals at SFO and had to leave the security area to move from the International Terminal to Terminal 2.  That took about 3 hours primarily due to standing in line for security.

Was the hold up due to that many people?  Nope.  If you had staffed the other 4 scanning machines I would imagine that things would have proceeded in a timely manner.  But instead we had a 2.5 hour line wait at a major international airport on a Tuesday afternoon.

We don’t take security seriously and we don’t staff for it seriously.  We don’t even use all the money taxed for it.  Instead, we re-allocate taxes raised for security to reduce the deficit.

Care to guess who is responsible for that exceptionally anti-business move?  That would be the Republican led Congress.

When we don’t adequately staff something like this, it is a billion dollar impact to our economy.  We literally impede commerce within this country.  This isn’t about people who should just shut up and wait an extra 10 minutes before taking a trip to Disney World.

To the contrary, most air travel is business related and contributes heavily to our economy.

We should have a big problem with how travel is impeded in this country.  It’s not a “this is the wealthy” moment.  It’s a “this is an economic driver for this country” moment.  All too often we think the only people using the airlines and airports are the elite.  That’s just not true.  We think that only travelers are affected by what happens in our airline transportation network.  That’s not true either.

So what are you going to do about it?

 

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Alaska Airlines merging with Virgin America reminds me of the AOL / Time Warner merger

May 23, 2016 on 12:48 pm | In Airline News, Airlines Alliances, Mergers and Bankruptcy | No Comments

When AOL merged with Time Warner to become an even bigger media company, a primary reaction was a dot com bubble was buying a multi-generational colossus.

But others who paid attention were quite a bit more concerned in the dissonance between the two companies in terms of leadership and culture.  In short, they were incompatible and didn’t understand each other.

I understand the desire for Alaska Airlines to buy an airline.  They are in a “eat or be eaten” world and presently look very attractive as a hors d’oeuvre for a much bigger airline.  So buying someone lets the airline continue to exist rather than become food for another.

Pardon me.  This merger is nuts.

The airline fleets are entirely at odds with each other.  The service products are entirely at odds with each other.  The networks are somewhat at odds with each other and where they aren’t . . . it doesn’t mean Alaska Airlines is going to pick up the customers from a consolidation point of view.

The company cultures are way at odds with each other.  Alaska Airlines has a multi-generational history and a very unionized, very conservative airline culture.  Virgin America is the millenial who just turned 24 and thinks they should be a vice president in their first job.

What bugs me more about this is that no one seems to be calling anyone out on this.  That alarms me.  Analysts and everyone else shouldn’t like this merger at all.  It doesn’t speak to merger synergies and it doesn’t look like a merger that is easily accomplished which means it looks like one hell of an expensive merger.

In the face of incredible and record setting airline profits in the past 2 years . . . no one seems to care very much.

And that’s what scares me about this industry.  It appears to be losing its focus again.

 

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SWA, SWAPA and 737MAX

May 19, 2016 on 12:37 pm | In Airline News | No Comments

Southwest pilot’s union, SWAPA, is suing Southwest to prevent them being forced to fly the 737MAX as they believe it’s not covered in the contract.

I understand the move.  This is the pilots wanting a new contract with an industry leading raise.  It’s designed to raise public awareness and tension with the company.

It is a contradiction in so many ways.  First and foremost, the 737MAX is no more than an update to a long existing aircraft flown by the company.   To see it as a new aircraft type and force that issue is a giant stretch at best.

However, we wouldn’t be seeing this if Southwest were able to get a deal done on the pilot’s (and other unions’) contract(s).  Fear of an industry leading contract is reasonable and particularly so for Southwest since they no longer have the lowest costs in the business.  It’s a reasonable fear.

Which means the pilots could stand to have a gut check.  Wanting the most is not unusual.  Wanting it against the specific conditions of your airline and its future is self-defeating.  And while Southwest isn’t bankrupt and isn’t likely to go bankrupt soon, it would be in the interests of the pilots to learn from 30 years of lessons.  Namely that over-reaching has never done an airline nor a union any good in this business.

Failure to achieve a contract is a pox on both houses.  Both can give and both should reach for a contract that starts asap.

The airline and its unions have to come to grips with the fact that the airline is changing, the airline industry has changed and while record profits are seen today, there is nothing in the airline industry that is less volatile than it used to be.   That said, both parties should realize that they enjoy success and wealth today because of the unique special relationship that the airline and unions have historically enjoyed.  That relationship was about getting deals done that benefited both parties without being harmful to either.

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