I’m surprised that they get you there at all


I’m surprised that they get you there at all

Kevin Williamson, National Review’s roving reporter takes off on the airlines in his recent piece Unholy Alliances.  You can read it yourself. Suffice it to say, he isn’t a fan of our air transportation system.

On the other hand, I am amazed that the airlines work at all.  Consider:

They have to buy huge machines that cost upwards of $100 million each.  These machines have a million parts anyone of which fails, and hundreds of people die.  Each of the airlines have hundreds (some thousands) of these machines which must be in certain places, at certain times, and work without fail. And on balance, they do.

They have tens of thousands of employees who must to their jobs unerringly, dealing with the public, many of whom, like Williamson, expect perfect service and leave little room for error. By the way, at any given moment in the US, there are over 4000 flights in the air.

I normally fly Delta.  There is history there but suffice it to say that the airline has been good to me.

On my last trip, I was scheduled to fly out of Chicago through Minneapolis to Los Angeles.  If you want to go to Atlanta, there are a bunch of flights each day to and from LA, or to Minneapolis, or Detroit, or Salt Lake City, or Cincinnati. However, Chicago, not so much.  But I don’t mind. They have wifi on every flight and I can get a lot of work done

I was at the airport early and the agent told me he could route me through Detroit and get me home three hours earlier.  Great — He took my bag and I was on my way. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the Club Room I was told that my Detroit flight was late and I would miss my LA bound flight. However, the agent in the club room told me she would fix it and send me through Atlanta.  I was standby on an early flight out of Atlanta, and booked on one an hour later. In either case I would be home early. Go Delta.

But what about my bag. “No Problems” she said. They would find it and reroute it to Atlanta and put it on the first flight. If I missed that flight, it would be in LA before me.

Right, I said. No way that was going to happen. She was confident. “They are pretty good down their in baggage handling. Now what does your bag look like?”

I was resolved that I would get my bag some time the next day, if at all.  I made the earlier flight out of Atlanta and when I got to LA, I went to a computer terminal in baggage claim and waved my baggage tag in front of it. The display said that my bag had been logged on the the flight from Atlanta and when I looked up, it was the first one coming off the carousel.

The system worked.  Understand that I would not have been disappointed if it had not, since I didn’t expect it to, however the more often it works, the more faith I have in the airline.

Sorry, I don’t want to fly in a broken plane into bad weather.  If it needs to be fixed, have at it. If there are thunderstorms, fly around them. I know that Chicago is not good in snowstorms and that many airports in the Midwest and south slow down in the summer due to thunderstorms. I know that and I allow for it.

Are some airlines better than others. Of course. It has to do with mission and attitude. If the mission is to be profitable, then they will be. If the mission is to treat their customers with respect and dignity, then they will, and be profitable too.

I’m off to Boston and then the UK in a couple of days. Lots of different flights, plane changes, and the like. However I have time to spare and if things go wrong, a good book to read.

Sorry Kevin, airlines aren’t perfect,  but most work better than you should be able to expect.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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