Dear Mr. Airline CEO

Well, fellas, you still don’t get it, do you? Last year, I offered several suggestions to help you turn your struggling airline industry around. They might have worked. One will never know, because you didn’t try any of them. Here we are, a year later, and nothing much has changed.

Oh, wait! Something has changed. Last year at this time, there were two of you operating under the cozy protection of bankruptcy. This year, those two have slid over and made room for two more. Let’s see, that means 67 percent of the major domestic carriers are now operating under bankruptcy protection.

Let’s take a walk down Memory Lane and recall the letter I wrote to you on November 29, 2004. My 2005 observations are in brackets.

Dear Gerard, Gerald, Glenn, Gordon, Douglas, and Bruce,

As we approach the holiday season, I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday and extend my most sincere wishes for your survival. I realize that the past several years have stressed you out in the ivory towers and I am afraid that you may have lost sight of the big picture.

So as a favor — call this an early Christmas present — I’ll help you put the big picture into perspective.

You fly planes. You are not in the direct-to-consumer sales business. You have a ready, willing and able sales force to handle your distribution. Remember travel agents? Carlson Wagonlit? American Express? ASTA? Home-based? The thousands upon thousands of independents? Orbitz? Travelocity? Expedia?

Just pay them something for the effort and they will reward you with full flights and, what’s more, customer service. America West has done it and the last time I checked, their balance sheet was fairly healthy. [Bruce, you may finally be out of the woods. Make sure Doug Parker is on your Christmas card list!] Besides, travel agents have already demonstrated that they are survivors. They’re still here despite your best efforts.

You are not in the restaurant business. Stop trying to convince your passengers that you are. Your catered food, when available, is horrible, and the real restaurants have plenty of options in the airports. Save your meals for the really long flights, save some money and offer some prepackaged snacks. Sit down, shut up and eat your peanuts.

You are not the mafia. Stop acting like it. People are willing to pay you good money to use your planes. Stop trying to extort more money from them with fee upon fee upon fee. You are not charged a penny when you return to a retail store for a price accommodation because your goods were just put on sale. Why do you think it is fair for you to do this to your customers? [And Doug S., passing on the PFCs really is a fare increase. Let’s call a spade a spade.]

If you want to operate a cartel, why not just shake everyone down at the gate and collect all their loose change? But be careful, a horse head in the bed is worse than cabin lights coming on after a red-eye.

You are not in the cruise business or the hotel business. Stop trying to meddle in that market. If you guys could get your own house in order, I might understand the push. But first things first. It is bad enough that your customers hate to fly on your planes. Now they might get a chance to hate a perfectly good cruise line.

You are in the people moving business. You know, as in elevators, escalators, moving walkways, mass transit. You move people from point A to point B. You employ tens of thousands of bean counters to tell you how much it costs to operate your business. Price yourself accordingly. Do not play games. They do not work and one would think that after the past four or five years you would have seen that they do not work. [Doug S.? You listening?]

How many harebrained schemes have you devised that have failed? Douglas, remember the GDS “sharing”? This is not the sharing you learned in kindergarten. What about those “use-it-or-lose-it” tickets that you all, dare I say “colluded,” on implementing?

Instead of trying to figure out ways to land the golden parachute, concentrate on landing the planes — preferably on time and safely, but if it needs to be late, not that much. And please let your customers know what is going on.

Gerard, there is nothing special in the air. Gerald, we don’t love the way you fly. Glenn, your skies are anything but friendly. Gordon, the proud bird with the golden tail is molting. Douglas, some people really know how to fly — unfortunately, it seems their names are Kelleher, Neeleman, Leonard and Parker. And Bruce, while US Airways may begin with me, you need to remember it may also end with me. [Bruce, maybe a Christmas gift is in order as well, come to think of it.]

Gentleman, fly your planes, price them fairly and treat your employees, agents and customers as you would want to be treated yourself.

You do have some outstanding talent out there — look at your pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, gate agents, ground crew, management, travel agents, caterers, cleaners. They want to earn a fair wage and they want to work for you. Treat them and pay them fairly and soon you will reap the rewards.

Happy holidays.

Wow, last year I had 741 words and this year it’s 777. That is not a lot of change, but then again, as I look at the industry, I guess that’s par for the course!

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