Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Airline Industry - BusinessWeek Style

My "now I admit it is a series" series on the the US Airline industry continues. As the US comes to the end of what people are calling the worst summer travel season ever we now have BusinessWeek chiming in with a view on who is at fault and what do about it. It is often said that when BusinessWeek spots a trend you know it is too late to do anything about it a very mature trend. This week's cover story is Fear & Loathing at the Airport and all about the US airline industry. I caught the story through the interesting series of podcasts they run on their cover stories.

The problems are well known - endless delays, constant cancellations and horrible customer service. There have been a few highlights but mainly an antiquated system collapsing under the weight of mismanagement and inefficiency.

The central question discussed in the BusinessWeek podcast is "who is to blame?". I sat starring at my ipod in anticipation of an answer, to have a name/body/group to blog about under the heading "here is the culprit!". Unfortunately in an expected but disappointing conclusion, the answer is everyone and no-one. The BusinessWeek journalist Chris Palmeri describes the problem as a result of a "fundamental organisational failure". The result of deregulation and industry neglect is that between the FAA, TSA, Airlines and Airports no-one has sole responsibility and the problems need a fix from all four.

A great example from the podcast of the hell caused by all this is the editor John Burn discussing a recent trip from JFK where the backlog of planes trying to take off was 4.5miles (7.2kms) long. So long that it had to take up a whole runway having the double whammy effect of reducing the number of planes that could land and increasing the diversions.

The conclusion of the podcast is that no longer can the online travel consumer just make flight purchase decisions based on price and time of departure. The on-time record has now become as critical a piece of information and how much, when and who is flying.

No comments: