Great time to be a cynic

I am back...

There is so much to talk about: oil prices, Obama, global warming (not), Iraq, Iran, political hypocracy, etc. It is actually hard for me to decide what to comment on and it takes me some time to flesh these comments out. Some people can make 10 blog posts per day and still (somehow) carry on a normal life... not me. But I started this thing and I am going to make something of it!

Let's talk about American Airlines who says that that they are going to start charging $15 for the first checked bag. My first suggestion is to not carry a checked bag, carry a polka-dotted bag. OK, OK, I am sorry. Had to do that...

I am not a jet-setter, but I have flown a quite bit this year. I usually fly Southwest, the Greyhound Bus of the Sky. (I actually like Southwest... no funny stuff with the fares, they post all of their prices on the internet and even their highest price fares are not a total rip-off. I am not crazy about their check-in procedure, but it is a lot better now than it was several years ago. Standing in line to stand in line just didn't cut it for me.)

But, American... Have you guys actually watched how passengers get onto planes with their carry-on luggage? How this strange Kabuki dance progresses as the plane fills up and people with obviously oversized bags try to stuff them into the compartment as the line behind them extends into the jetway because they are so rude that they won't slip into a seat and let people move on by? Have you noticed how there is never any room left up top, especially on a full flight (that's what you want isn't it? A full flight?)

Now you are going to charge $15 to check your first bag. What is the natural inclination of humans, especially the ones that are not part of Silver, Gold, or Platinum, who probably got their ticket from the Gnome or Captain Kirk? That's right! Don't check it, carry it on!

Now we are going to try to squeeze "fifty pounds into a thirty pound sack." That is really going to help your on-time statistics. Plus, think what it will do for the TSA as thousands of people carry stuff onto planes that usually go down into the cargo hold. It is going to take hours to get through 'customs' at places like DFW and other American hubs. ("Oh, I have to have my toothpaste in a Zip-Loc baggie???") I believe that other airlines will follow suit quickly because they are all looking for more money and it was American's turn to go first on this one. Remember, United started the $25-for-the-second-bag charge.

So, let me see if I get this... prices are going up, customer satisfaction is going down, people are genuinely irritated at the thought of airline travel. Your mission as an airline exec is to increase customer satisfaction and number of passengers flying on your airline.

You come up with a plan that will increase the turmoil at the TSA checkin, cause flyers to have more bags to schlep around the customer lounge and into the restrooms (remember, you cannot leave a bag unattended), cause longer times getting to your seat with the real possibility that the last people to board will not have a place to put their luggage and decrease the possibility that you will push back late from the gate. Your valued customers are cramped in their seats, with their usual carry-on bag stuffed under the seat in front of them so that there is no leg room.

That is really going to cause people to want to fly at all... let alone on your airline.
Now we have the perfect storm: high gas prices cause families not to want to vacation at 25 cents per mile in their SUV, airline policy makes people miserable before, during and after the flight, and the economy (ostensibly) is bad causing people to want to cut back on spending.

Good move, American...

But, wait. I can see a future business model for "Concierge Vacations." It would go something like this: A family of four from Elizabeth City, NC wants to visit Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon for a week. They would drive to a gateway airport, either Raliegh-Durham or Norfolk. They would check their bags with the skycap and then proceed to the Concierge desk. The attendant would issue their boarding passes and direct them to the Concierge lounge in the proper terminal. They would go through a special TSA line set aside for frequent travelers, employees and Concierge travelers. When their flight is ready to board, an announcement would be made and they would proceed to the gate where they would be seated with the first group of passengers. When they arrive at their destination, their bags would have been gathered by Concierge staff and be ready for their pre-chosen rental car or taxi. Many of the accomodations for their week would be pre-arranged with as much free time as they wish. When they arrive back at the airport for their return flight, the process would work the same.

Except for gasoline or taxi fare, food and discretionary spending, the vacation would be one price. Most of the travel sites already give you the pieces of the puzzle. The Concierge Service Company would just bundle them into one convenient package. This would insulate the consumer from the nickel and diming of the airlines and the inconvenience factor that affect all of us who travel. You could even set it up with "EasyPay" for 12 monthly payments.
Whenever there is a problem, someone will arise to capitalize on the situation. We will have to wait and see what comes of this latest airline fiasco.

It is funny in a sick sort of way, that Al Qaeda has had a way bigger effect on the United States with how they totally screwed up transportation in our country and the world rather than how they wanted us all to become Muslims through Jihad. I never even think about The Sheik except when I pass through security at the airport, or watch a US Army officer in uniform practically disrobe at the Tampa Airport so that he may pass through The Puffer. And when I think of Bin Laden and his followers, the hatred and malice are palpable. I am sure that is what he wanted...


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