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Travel Industry Employees Speak Out

We have our say nearly every day here at The Independent Traveler -- it's high time we let someone else have the bully pulpit for a day.

As most readers know, we're almost relentlessly pro-traveler in our attentions, obsessions, and opinions, especially in this column. Sometimes we may seem anti-everyone else, but it is not really the case - we know there are real people on the other side of the desk, gate, security machine, and seatbelt. Unfortunately the battle lines have been drawn to some extent; hopefully we can offer some diplomacy.

Given our admitted bias, it's time to give equal time to readers who work in the field day in and day out, whose jobs are likely harder than we know, and who are also likely more committed to their work than most concede.

In particular, the article Like It's 1999: Airlines Disappoint Yet Again in 2005 inspired a flood of mail from travel industry employees, so without further ado, let's hear from airline industry professionals who took the time to write from their experience and perspective. Agree or disagree, thanks very much for writing; your honest feedback makes us work harder and better.

Letters from Pilots and Professionals
Nothing like jumping right in:
    Oh, PLEASE! Cease and desist with the bitching and whining about alleged Lousy Airline Service.

    In case you hadn't noticed, the entire industry was bleeding to death after 9/11. Now, a lot of this was not rational -- but, the fact remains -- the drop-off in air travel after 9/11 created an extremely dire situation from which the industry has not completely recovered.

    Couple this with the fact that the ONLY parameter that airline travelers seem to consider is the fare. They don't seem to be aware that with low, low fares come crowded airplanes, cramped seating, and a diminished level of service.

    Yes, baggage handling has probably gotten worse. Not too surprising, considering that staff has been laid off by way of cost-cutting.

    I am a Captain for American Airlines, and I work hard and study hard and am subjected to recurrent training to ensure that you will have the safest flight possible. That's all well and good and right.

    I have a number of friends who are Flight Attendants and Agents (including Baggage Service Agents) who also work hard to give the Traveling Public the best possible travel experience. That's also well and good and right.

    So, it makes my blood boil to hear that "it's hard to say just how far the airlines can push travelers before the next backlash." Travelers aren't being "pushed" anywhere they don't WANT to be pushed.

    Oh, and by the way, American has NOT been "bailed out" by the taxpayers. It was bailed out, three years ago, by its employees, who agreed to onerous contract changes for the purpose of keeping AA OUT of bankruptcy.

    Yes, you are the "paying customers." But most of you don't pay very damn much, which is a major part of the problem.

    S.C.F.
    Captain, American Airlines

Captain F-
Thanks very much for the expansive note, I appreciate it. It looks like my article was promoted outside our site, so folks wouldn't know this, but I addressed some of these issues a couple weeks earlier in The Beginning of the End for Discount Airlines?

Specifically, I believe that many passengers would be willing to pay more if the overall pricing scheme made sense, as I wrote in that column:

"On the second question - are rock bottom fares largely a thing of the recent past - I say let's hope so. I see only one win-win scenario - sensible, consistent, and reliable airline prices." So we're probably in the same ballpark on this, if not the same sideline.

I do disagree with some comments that brush up against demonizing passengers for buying low fares that the airlines themselves offer. In any other industry, no one would blink at a consumer buying an identical item for a lower price. The idea that travelers "WANT to be pushed" by delayed flights and lost baggage seems absurd. The treatment many travelers experience in the trenches is atrocious; you make a good case for pilots and flight attendants, but that doesn't mean that travelers are not treated like cargo on a fairly regular basis. I've been there myself: Letter to Northwest Airlines.

Anyway, the previous article might give some perspective on my overall view of the industry- thanks again for writing,
Ed

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