Friday, July 18, 2008

July 21, 2008---Up, up and away no more


Consider This for July 21, 2008---Up, up and away no more

The latest victim of high fuel prices is the airline industry. The pilots at U.S. Airways are refusing to comply with an order by management that they reduce the amount of fuel they have in their tanks. Fuel weighs a certain amount and to carry extra fuel costs the airline more because of the weight.

The pilots feel they need the extra fuel as insurance against the possibility of having to circle an airport to get clearance to land or to divert to another airport when the original destination is busy, full or closed.

I do not blame the pilots as they must put safety first. They must carry the extra fuel and the airlines will just have to suck it up or add the cost to the already high ticket price. No one wants to fly around wondering if there is going to be enough fuel in the tank to divert to a far away airport or to circle for an hour or two to land in a Colorado snowstorm.

In the high Rockies this can become critical because there are not that many airports available to divert to in an emergency. Just look at a map. Or better yet don’t look at a map because it might scare you.

In the same news reports the forecast is that there will be as many as 50,000 jobs lost in the airline industry in the next twelve months. There are projections that at least two or three existing airlines will close their doors due to fuel costs. They can’t stay in business because it costs too much.

The news also said that the average round trip domestic coach ticket is now $400 up nearly 100% over the past year.

All of this is the unintended consequences of rising fuel costs.

I flew to Mexico City round trip three years ago for $200. I flew to Guatemala City last year for $400 round trip. I flew to Quito this year for $700 round trip. Besides the ever increasing costs I found that the flights and service were lacking over my past trips. I virtually had no service from the flight attendants and I felt that I was on a commuter bus rather than a passenger jet costing millions of dollars. It was sad to see how much service had deteriorated. It was much like losing an old friend.

To top it all off they keep shoving the seats together until your knees are slammed against the seat in front of you. I flew for seven hours to South American and both of my legs were numb most of the time. Yes, I know I could get up and walk around but in order to do that the other two passengers in my row would have to get up and walk around with me. There was no squeezing through in front of them.

I hate to say this but I think that I have flown for the last time. The airlines have put themselves out of business but in the process they have lost me as a customer forever. I can drive to where I am going although I am not sure it is any cheaper. I can still take a Greyhound bus and once again become an observer of the underbelly of life in America. That might be fertile ground for a novel I have yet to write.

I could probably use the experience to relate some interesting stories to my Sociology classes. I wonder if my students would wonder if I was telling the truth.

Or maybe instead of spending thousands of dollars flying hither and yon I could just stay home and have my five children and seven grandchildren come visit me for a change. It might be educational for them and even more relaxing for me.

Yes, “The times they are a changing” and I wonder how all of this will eventually impact our golden goose, the tourism industry. Now where is that high speed mass transit system when you need it?

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