Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Whining By US Airlines Doesn't Cut It
A month ago we flew from Sarasota to Washington DC aboard Delta Airlines. While in the air I strummed through the Delta in-flight magazine where I found a full-page advertisement (better described as a temper tantrum) in which Delta complained that Middle Eastern airlines were being unfair to US airlines. The unfairness comes largely from subsidies being paid by middle eastern countries (Qatar, United Arab Emirates were the two countries causing the most angst) that US airlines claim makes competing against those airlines difficult at best.
The US argument is a joke of the highest order because US airlines have been sucking at the federal tit ever since the Contract Air Mail Act of 1925 was implemented providing for federal subsidies to support US airlines. And lets not forget the Essential Air Service program, which currently provides subsidies for airlines serving 163 rural communities nationwide. There’s also the Fly America Act, which since 1974 has required federal agencies to use U.S. air carriers to transport passengers and cargo when such travel is funded by the government. Delta Airlines, who whined in their inflight magazine about other countries giving airlines subsidies received about $900,000,000 in Federal subsidies in 2014 alone!
I have now traveled to 120 countries around the world. I've flown on 3,124 actual flight segments since my first flight on October 31, 1977 aboard Ozark Airlines from Minneapolis to St. Louis. Among all those flights I have flown 1,963,417 actual miles (not frequent flier miles but actual miles in the air). I know this because since my first flight in 1977 I have kept track of each flight I've taken, the airline and aircraft type flown, the route flown, and the actual air mileage between airports. If you assume the maximum circumference of the earth is 24,000 miles, then I have flown enough miles on jet aircraft to have circumnavigated the globe 81.8 times. I know a little bit about being a passenger on a plane.
The issue is not one of government subsidies creating "unfairness" among airlines and countries. The issue is customer service or, in the case of US airlines, the lack of customer service.
On a recent trip from Orlando, Florida to Cebu, Philippines via Dubai, United Arab Emirates, I discovered what an absolute treat it is to fly on Emirates Airlines. From the moment you step on the plane you are treated with respect and civility - there is no feeling of being cattle in a cattle car like you feel on most airlines in the US. Flight attendants refer to you as "sir" or "madame". Each is dressed smartly in matching outfits (for males and for females). The supervising flight attendant for each section of the plane personally greets everyone and encourages you to contact them if you need anything. Meals are served promptly and bountifully (unlike on US airlines). If there is a 5-minute delay pushing back from the gate (as happened on our return from Cebu to Dubai, the pilot is on the intercom informing everyone about what they consider a "delay" and apologizing profusely for any inconvenience this may cause each traveler.
When was the last time you saw a flight attendant on a US airline dressed professionally like this Emirates attendant? I don't remember either.
On Emirates Airlines you are a valued customer. You are not a number. On Emirates Airlines you don't have to worry about being beaten and dragged from the flight as recently happened on United Airlines. There is no need to worry about your luggage being used for batting practice (also on United). You'll never find an Emirates flight attendant treating passengers like this American Airlines flight attendant did.
The thing Emirates (and Qatar Airways that we will fly in June) have over Delta, United and American is customer service. That is a concept US airlines have forgotten in their rush to charge for everything, cram more rows of smaller seats into a finite space, and reward their shareholders at the expense of their customers. It’s all about treating passengers like they matter rather than treating them like cattle. US airlines could learn a lot from those they criticize the most.
During all of my travel over the last 41 years I've come to the conclusion that there are only two airlines left in this country that know the definition of customer service and they practice it on every flight. One is JetBlue and the other is Alaska Airlines. If only both airlines had flight systems as extensive as Delta, American, Southwest, and United. Maybe some day.