Last week, I had an opportunity to visit Florida. The comfort of good friends and the warm weather made for a welcome respite from Boston storms that seem to be the order this winter. But this trip was different. It was an awakening to excellent service - far beyond the ordinary. It was the discovery that total professional service can create an experience that will not be forgotten.
We all have read newspaper articles and heard pundits discuss the major airline malaise. Now, it is being taken to a new level, a miserable un-American level by some of the major airlines. There has always been a rivalry between Boeing and Airbus. One is American-made and the other is European-made. Through subsidies and national investments the Europeans created an aircraft industry that has become a strong rival to Boeing.
The airline industry is in a bind. The major airlines, for the most part, have created a business where every time a plane takes off they lose money. From a small businessman's point of view, this situation can't last long without some "white knight" swooping in with a parade of wagons full of money.
The airlines seem to want to go out of business these days. Terrorists may have struck a symbolic blow against the capitalist Satan with their destruction of the twin towers, but the airlines themselves are proving to be much more of a threat to their survival than any terrorist may have been.
In a recent column I stated that on 9/11 the only part of our air travel security net that functioned properly was the airport security system. The deluge of email noting that I was obviously demented was noteworthy. I am not demented. Nor am I ignorant. Just misunderstood.
I have just finished a series of domestic and international flights where I had opportunities to informally speak with pilots from US Airways, United, Delta, Northwest and American Airlines. I also spent plenty of time chatting with flight attendants of at least a half dozen airlines. We spent most of our time discussing the plight of the airline industry and what they, as worker bees, expect to see happen as the airlines maneuver for federal loan guarantees.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced that bomb detection machinery has been installed in every airport in the country and that individual security checks will be scaled back over the next months. This was the culmination of extraordinary teamwork between Washington D.C. politicians and bureaucrats and some of America's leading corporations and research institutes.
Contrary to what folk at Orbitz want you to believe, they do not have a monopoly on the lowest published airfares these days. Expedia and Travelocity and others have come up with various ways to beat even the last-minute published Internet fares provided by the airlines.
I can't stand it. For years the airlines have been clearly engaging in price-fixing, but our government seems to feel that there is nothing wrong with it. The airlines have been clearly engaged in active predatory pricing, but the government doesn't seem to have an adequate enough definition to prosecute what I see as blatant predatory activities.
This is the third in my collection of favorite travel Web sites. AutoEurope.com has the best international car rentals, Priceline.com has the best name-your-own-price site for airlines, hotels and rental cars, and now, based on my experience, Southwest has the best and easiest-to-use airline site. The basic rule for Southwest in all phases of their operations is, "Keep it simple."