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  #1  
Old 07-18-2008, 11:15 AM
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A great piece on the airlines

The Blame Game
By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
July 18, 2008
WSJ

Dear CEOs of U.S. airlines:

I want to say thanks for the July 10 email you sent to all your customers seeking to explain why today's air travel experience is so painful. The letter, signed by 12 of you, explained that "oil speculators" -- presumably by betting on future oil prices -- are killing your industry and thus requested that I, as a consumer, pressure Congress to rein in this "unchecked" market "manipulation."

I admit that just lately I'd begun to feel that flying was something akin to having my intestines fished out with a long hook. Actually, I'd been wondering whom to blame for the fact that it would probably be cheaper, easier and maybe even faster to drive to wherever I want to go than to board one of your planes. Suddenly, all is clear.

I now understand that it is oil speculators who set your hiring policies and who must have outlined the three types of people you may employ: those who grunt at me, those who sigh deeply as if my presence has ruined their day and those who are actively hostile to my smallest request.

I'm betting those speculators at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange were behind the retention of that counter agent who recently placed me, my 3-year-old and my infant in completely different rows for a cross-country flight, instructing me to "sort it out at the gate." The CME undoubtedly also hired the gate agent who told me to "fix it on the plane." Ditto the stewardess who yelled at me for not dealing with this problem before I boarded and then ordered a dozen people to shift seats, delaying our departure. Not that it mattered, since we sat on the runway for two hours. But it's good to know what donkey I can pin that tail on.

I now know that it was conniving commodity traders who have been losing my bags for the past two decades. Hey, you know what? It was probably some stressed-out oil jockey who in the late 1990s "relieved" my bag of that fifth of bourbon my parents gave me. Thieving, drunken futures traders, the lot of them!

I now understand why, right before Christmas, I and a dozen other passengers showed up at the gate to be informed that the airline had overbooked our flight and that we might not make it home for the holiday. I realize now that an airline -- which is in the business of getting people where they need to go -- would never be so inept (greedy?) as to double-sell its seats at one of the busiest times of the year. Only some good-for-nothing oil trader would be that low.

Speaking of logistics, I'm also relieved to find out that it was not you but the oil-futures business that lobbied to get rid of air-traffic restrictions at a busy airport like LaGuardia, thus leading to national gridlock. The next time I'm baking on a New York runway and the captain tells me that we're "25th for takeoff" for my "short hop" to Washington, I'll be sure to blame the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Whoa. It just hit me. Maybe Nymex is also running the Transportation Security Administration! Up to now, I'd figured that only a government bureaucrat had the creativity to come with those requirements about toiletries in sandwich bags and to design the maze at Dulles Airport that makes me think I am approaching the security gate when in fact I am two hours away. But now that I consider the matter, those speculators are pretty smart. And since their purpose in life is to scam Americans, it all makes sense.

I feel so much better knowing that it was the Intercontinental Exchange that negotiated the airline labor contracts, promising packages you couldn't afford, ratcheting up the stakes until you finally went bankrupt and then left me, the taxpayer, holding the bag. And, phew, am I glad to find out you weren't involved in that underhanded attempt to keep Virgin from starting a new low-cost carrier here. Only a dying industry would sic the government on a rival instead of honestly competing for business. And that's just not you, is it?

And I'm beginning to get why the only way I can use my frequent-flier miles is if I agree to travel to Chattanooga, Tenn., in October 2011. Those oil-futures guys, they're tricky. I'm betting they've got some futures-hedge-put-short-thingy placed so that they will make a bundle if I touch down in that city a few years hence. Never underestimate the long con.

I have only one question: What the heck happened with Southwest? I seem to remember back in 2005, as oil prices were rising, Southwest used the oil market to "hedge" its fuel supply, locking in lower costs that gave it a competitive edge. Oh, now I get it. Southwest totally used the market to its advantage. Ha, ha. I bet those speculators are still beating themselves with flight manuals over that one.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the day when you shut down oil markets, whatever the cost to the economy. Then I will expect to arrive at a gleaming airport, where I will be greeted by a chipper employee and quickly shuffled through security, where I will take off and land on time and be handed an unrifled bag. After all, you will have no more excuses.

Hopefully yours . . .

Ms. Strassel writes the Journal's Potomac Watch column.

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  #2  
Old 07-18-2008, 11:47 AM
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  #3  
Old 07-18-2008, 12:05 PM
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EASTERN.

One or more of today's airlines ought to go follow them to the graveyard.

http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Commercial_Aviation/EasternAirlines/Tran13.htm

...............In the 1970s, Eastern's big purchase was that of the European Airbus A-300. Airbus had tried unsuccessfully to break into the U.S. market for many years. After Airbus offered a very generous deal to Eastern, Eastern's new president, former NASA astronaut Frank Borman, agreed to buy 23 of the new jets in the spring of 1978. For Airbus, this was one of the most important breakthroughs into the U.S. market and ensured a reliable customer base for future Airbus models.

Eastern did not fare well in the 1980s. Under Borman's shaky command, the company was in deep trouble as a result of major disagreements between management and the labor unions, and also because of major debt from purchases in the late 1970s. As Borman ineffectively tried to get pay cuts to compensate for debts, Eastern began to rack up year after year of losses until late 1985, when it had a debt of $3.5 billion. It was at this point that Frank Lorenzo, the infamous airline powerbroker who controlled Continental Airlines, stepped in. After Borman failed to get any significant concessions from his trade unions, Lorenzo bought the whole airline for only $615 million, adding Eastern to his existing prizes of People's Express, Frontier Airlines, Texas Air, and New York Air.

Lorenzo was ruthless in using Eastern's core assets for his other airlines, devising various ways to use them to make money for his other properties. He let Texas Air “purchase” Eastern's advanced reservation system but issued only an I.O.U. for it. Eastern then had to pay Texas Air a monthly fee of $10 million to use its own system. He “sold” six of Eastern's planes to Continental but paid nothing for them. The result was that, to survive, Eastern had to sell off aircraft and lay off workers in large numbers. As tensions mounted between the labor unions and Lorenzo's harsh tactics, Lorenzo slowly began to dismantle Eastern and sell off its parts. When the unions struck in March 1989, Lorenzo filed for bankruptcy. This gave him some breathing room and allowed him to use strikebreakers to continue operations. By this time, however, Eastern was collapsing under its debt, and finally in January 1991, the airline completely ran out of money to operate. In late 1991, the airline was liquidated. Thus ended the life of one of America's greatest domestic airlines.
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  #4  
Old 07-18-2008, 12:37 PM
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Old 07-18-2008, 10:26 PM
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Ms. Strassel's esprit de l'escalier letter is only that-thoughts on what she should have, would have, could have said if she had had the wit and the cajones. Pls. Ms. Strassel, if you don't like something, whether it is a tv program, restaurant food, or an airline exercise your right as a thinking human (and you seem to be able to think as your moniker indicated you are a writer of limited note) and stay the f... away from those people and institutions that piss you off.

If you don't like travel on airlines get on your high horse and ride to where ever you need to go. It won't be as fast, and with a 3 year old it for sure as hell won't be as comfortable, but, by God, you will get there on your own terms.

Airline travel has not been fun since 1972, and with the way things are going I don't see that it is likely to be fun anytime soon. Get used to it. America has been blessed, in sort of a perverted way, with low oil prices for 100 years and now the party is over. When the airlines try to raise their prices in order to give you the kind of service you hope for then all hell breaks loose. The hue and cry is deafening when the airlines tell you that you can't take 240 lbs. of carry on baggage inside the cabin.

To blame the oil companies for the price of oil, and subsequent rise in air line prices and cut backs in service, is like blaming the weatherman for rain. Certainly the oil companies make some money off the price rise, but, I bet, no one who has energy company stocks in their 401k is complaining.

The people you need to be yelling at are Americans. We have created this oil dependent monster. We are the ones who have put our cajones in the hands of the oil nations. No one forced us into this position. No one forced us to buy 6 liter SUVs, or keep our houses at 72 deg., or drive 20 miles for a latte. Put the blame where it belongs; on the American life style.

In other words, put a cork in it and get a bike.
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Old 07-18-2008, 10:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kip Foss View Post
Ms. Strassel's esprit de l'escalier letter is only that-thoughts on what she should have, would have, could have said if she had had the wit and the cajones. Pls. Ms. Strassel, if you don't like something, whether it is a tv program, restaurant food, or an airline exercise your right as a thinking human (and you seem to be able to think as your moniker indicated you are a writer of limited note) and stay the f... away from those people and institutions that piss you off.

If you don't like travel on airlines get on your high horse and ride to where ever you need to go. It won't be as fast, and with a 3 year old it for sure as hell won't be as comfortable, but, by God, you will get there on your own terms.

Airline travel has not been fun since 1972, and with the way things are going I don't see that it is likely to be fun anytime soon. Get used to it. America has been blessed, in sort of a perverted way, with low oil prices for 100 years and now the party is over. When the airlines try to raise their prices in order to give you the kind of service you hope for then all hell breaks loose. The hue and cry is deafening when the airlines tell you that you can't take 240 lbs. of carry on baggage inside the cabin.

To blame the oil companies for the price of oil, and subsequent rise in air line prices and cut backs in service, is like blaming the weatherman for rain. Certainly the oil companies make some money off the price rise, but, I bet, no one who has energy company stocks in their 401k is complaining.

The people you need to be yelling at are Americans. We have created this oil dependent monster. We are the ones who have put our cajones in the hands of the oil nations. No one forced us into this position. No one forced us to buy 6 liter SUVs, or keep our houses at 72 deg., or drive 20 miles for a latte. Put the blame where it belongs; on the American life style.

In other words, put a cork in it and get a bike.

And you're living down in the Valley where you have to drive everywhere. I don't know how much gas people in the Valley waste driving to San Antonio and Houston for everything from medical care to shopping trips. LOL I thought airline travel had been decent until 1977, who knows lol. I wish I were rich and didn't have to fly commercial(ly)
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Old 07-19-2008, 12:24 PM
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This would be a cool personal aircraft:
http://www.skywalkervtol.com/index.htm
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  #8  
Old 07-19-2008, 01:59 PM
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Trakehner,

I live near Corpus Christi. I wish I did live in the Valley, then I could go across the border and get $2.00+ a gal. gas from Mexico.

Since the price rise I have cut way back on what now seems to be wasted trips to Corpus. I make a list and instead of going to CC every couple of days I now go once a month. My projects take a bit longer to complete but now that I am retired I don't really care.

You are right in that Texans used to not think anything of driving 60 miles for a hamburger. My wife and I used to drive 300+ miles to San Antonio for a movie. Not anymore. Wait a little while and I can get the same movie at the local video store for $4.
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  #9  
Old 07-19-2008, 02:52 PM
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I hope they go bankrupt, let capitalism work.
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  #10  
Old 07-19-2008, 10:19 PM
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I'm voting with my wallet. I've only paid my own money for a plane ticket on two occasions, once in 1998 and once in 2007. Other than that, I only fly if someone else is buying. I thought flying was unpleasant in the 90's. Since September of '01 it's gone from silly to ridiculous.

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