Since I fly a lot, people have asked me a bunch of questions about the current American Airlines maintenance debacle. Questions have ranged from “do you feel safe flying” to “how can they do this to their customers.” As you might expect, I have lots of thoughts on these topics.
First, yes I do feel safe flying. The airline industry has an impeccable and improving safety record. In addition, pilots have a self-preservation motive to make sure the planes they fly on are safe too.
However, the customer issue is a whole different thing. American Airlines instituted a policy last year that no longer allows customers to talk to them about ANYTHING that is not current flight related. If you have a question, feedback, complaint or issue you have to email it to them. And their email response is no where close to prompt in my experience.
However this policy has probably done one thing for them. They have found an effective way to reduce customer complaints.
Regarding the current debacle, who knows. I have found that most airlines operate as if passengers are an inconvenience to the efficient movement of airplanes. And, since most of the airlines benchmark their performance against each other, the bar is not very high.
The better airlines, like Southwest (who was also caught cutting maintenance corners) are usually full and a full airplane is less comfortable than a ½-full airplane. So, flying on the other airlines can have its advantages when they are not full.
However, now that the “majors’ (not that Southwest is not a major, but Jet Blue certainly isn’t) are reducing flights, their flights are full too, so their benefit over Southwest has been reduced. And with Southwest if you buy a business fare or if you fly them a lot, you can guarantee yourself an aisle or window as you prefer no matter when you book.
Anyway, as long as the employees of the airlines hate their management, and airline management operates as if customers don’t matter, nothing is going to change no matter what the lawmakers try to do. Safety is not really an issue in my opinion, and you can’t legislate good service. The market has to demand good service, and since the airlines appear to have banded together to remove that it makes it tough for the traveler in normal times, much less with the current debacle.