If there's a "tipping point" for gas prices (the price at which you change your driving habits), is there a "tipping point" for flying on an airline? If so, what is it?
Higher fares, a slew of tacked-on fees, flights that are late and crowded are the new standard in the airline industry. Does it make a difference?
I'll be live-blogging in the studio with Kerri Miller on Wednesday's first hour of Midmorning. Most of the time, Midmorning asks me when they want me to blog their show. This time, I asked them. The guests are: George Hobica, creator of Airfarewatchdog.com; Joe Schwieterman: professor of public service management at DePaul University; and Tammy Lee: Vice president for communications at Northwest Airlines.
I sense a pent-up desire to tell the airlines a thing or two, and to tell a few stories about your experience -- good and bad.
That's where the "comments" section below comes in. Let's start talking about this now, so that by Wednesday at 9, we'll have something to tell our radio friends.
9:02 a.m. - It occurred to me while getting ready for today's shows that I hear the word Northwest Airlines and blames in the same sentence quite often. A Google search reveals, for example:
9:09 a.m. Hobica is up first. He's in Boston on business and took the train to get there. He says the only reason people fly in the Northeast Corridor now is to get frequent flyer miles, which are tougher to spend.
9:11 a.m. Hobica says the stock market has been propping up "the ridiculously low airfares." This is why airlines are "cutting capacity," creating a shortage of available seats. Kerri asks why nickel-and-dime instead of raising fares? "They think demand will drop off," Hobica says. He also says the industry has been mismanaged since deregulation, so "what's new?"
9:14 a.m. Just reading Hobica's blog. Says airlines, having created an unpleasant experience, are now selling travel insurance to guard against such things.
9:17 a.m. Milan from Mankato calls. Flew for TWA for 50 years. "Given what airlines are charging, airlines are losing their shirts. Airlines have to increase fares by 20 to 30% but people won't pay it."
9:19 a.m. -- Cirrus (and I wrote about this a week ago) is depending on the current situation to market its VLJ (very light jet) business. Hobica just uttered the party line when it comes to general aviation (note: I'm not objective on this) by recommending private jets start paying for 'clogging up the skies.' In other words, airlines have something else to blame, now. What do private pilots say? They say "we're paying taxes to support the air traffic control system (via fuel taxes), so why can't we use it?"
9:25 a.m. Just read comments from Mary L. and Larry in comments below. And yours? Where's yours?
9:26 Delta will charge $80 for certain bags each way. Hobica sends his luggage via UPS to his hotel. Cheaper. You can find a chart that compares the cost of doing this here.
9:29 a.m.- Caller Diane flew in from St. Louis. Plane delayed for an hour, missed connection in Chicago. Ticket agents were surly. "Ticket agent said, 'look, all this crying for nothing.'" Hobica says "we're impoverished in this country when it comes to consumer protection." How much do the airlines worry about customer satisfaction? Southwest has very good policies, Hobica says. It's the older legacy carriers that are "ruining it for the reputation of the airlines."
Survey of the Day
This is as good a time as any for today's survey.
.. and now back to the show...
Joining the show now is Tammy Lee, a spokeswoman for Northwest and Joe Schwieterman: professor of public service management at DePaul University.
9:38 a.m. -- "We're in survival mode here," Tammy Lee says. She ran for Congress a couple of years ago. Does being the spokesperson for an airline ruin a political career? Just wondering.
9:39 a.m. -- People appreciate the fees as opposed to simply raising the fares across the board. Is that true? You tell me.
Observations for free: People seem more upset by poor service than higher fees.
9:41 a.m. -- Why not just raise air fares? "We can't get them to stick," Lee says.
9:44 a.m. I just read Erik's comment on service. Tammy Lee says the competitive advantage is the "service experience."
"Ultimately, at the end of the day, the customer is going to flock to the lowest price. If they get there safely, that's all they care about."
Well, there it is in English. We don't CARE about the attitude we have, because you'll put up with it if you save a buck.
Sun Country tested this theory in a recent marketing campaign. Does it work?
9:47 a.m. "When you choose between survival and service, survival wins," Tammy Lee says. I'm immediately reminded of the the story of how a small hardware store in Brattleboro Vermont ran Home Depot out of town
9:50 a.m. - Schwieterman says there's a future for Southwest in the Twin Cities. He says that airline is starting to compete head-to-head more with "the big boys."
9:53 a.m. - Advice from a guest. Get rid of your frequent flyer credit card and ge a cash-back card. You have to pay an $80 fee and now you're paying more to cash in the miles.
Last word on fares We've been tracking the cost of a ticket to Midway from Minneapolis St. Paul for the last few months. Today, it's going for $496.75, and that doesn't include the fees. In March, it was $114 (there was a competing airline flying the route, then).(36 Comments)
How bad is the economy right now? It's perilously close to Jimmy-Carter-presidency bad.
The stock market is tanking -- big-time -- and people who are getting their quarterly statements for their retirement funds are noticing a much smaller number on the bottom line.
It's even worse than that suggests, however. The government reported today that inflation for June climbed 1.1% -- the biggest jump since 1982.
The Web site, inflationdata.com charts the inflation rate from 1990. For 15 years, the rate trended down. From 2004, however, it's increasing.
1982. Let's take a quick trip back:
Stand down. The door that fell from a helicopter in the East Metro yesterday has been found, according to the National Guard:
The Minnesota National Guard has located the missing CH-47 "Chinook"
helicopter door that fell during flight yesterday afternoon. The door was found at 9:30 a.m. this morning by a National Guard search party in the vicinity of Lower Afton Road in Maplewood. The door was located in a grassy field near the Maplewood Fire Department. There were no injuries or property damage.
I can't help but point out the breathlessly delivered "investigation" last night by KSTP on air safety requirements for the upcoming Republican National Convention....
.. contained an awfully lot of facts available to News Cut readers 2 1/2 months ago.
What will happen if a pilot strays too close to the Xcel?
First the fighter jets will try to contact the pilot by radio. Then they'll get serious by dropping flares. Then they'll get really serious.
And, no, the pilot of the plane above wasn't being stupid. He was flying along -- legally -- when the pilot of the fighter jet asked if he would mind being used for intercept practice.(1 Comments)
Apparently, the United States is not a fallen superpower yet.
Listening and watching Americans at work, one would think we're all stockpiling apples to sell on the streetcorner.
Then there's the rest of the world.
The BBC's World Have Your Say had a fascinating topic today: Us. Our economy and our culture (which is pretty much the same thing these days):
No-one forces anyone to choose Gap jeans over another brand, a Starbucks coffee over someone else's, MTV over another music station - they're just good products and people want them - so what's the problem ?
Well, some say the all-powerful U.S brands undermine their national culture and make the world look the same. Phrases like "cultural imperialism" are murmured. Much fuss about nothing ? After all, the consumer is king...
Unfortunately, the conversation was dominated by, umm, Americans, like this former Minneapolitan:
Well, being American I can't quite answer this question. One thing I can say is that our American culture is largely the result of influences from so many other cultures. In my hometown of Madison, WI, you can easily walk to a Chinese, Indian, Greek, or Mexican restaurant. It may not be a large chain or corporation, but it's an international influence none the less.
There was -- at least on the blog -- a little insight into how some other see us.
Africa, for example:
I Think us-the African's do have 'the natural beleive" that the Americans are more superior Human beings than we are!Hence we start copying what ever they do!Be it the way they dress,what type of music they listen to,or what the way they walk! I think it's very wrong to copy someones way of life and to allow them to decide what type life one should live!.........
What about jazz and baseball? Great aspects of American culture.
One fascinating element of the discussion is how the U.S. "culture" seems to be defined as the U.S. "pop culture." But, as blogmate DaveG notes in a thread yesterday, isn't the U.S. willingness to take the lead in fighting AIDS in Africa, part of our culture, too?
Many Americans were worried that the blog would become an international America-bashing festival. As it turns out, nobody can bash America, like an American.(3 Comments)