With airlines continuing to face major operational issues, they’re being called to the principal’s office today… or something like that.
Transportation Secretary meeting with airline CEOs
It’s being reported that US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is meeting virtually today with CEOs from major US airlines, to discuss the busy summer travel season and flight disruptions. Sources suggest that the meeting is intended to discuss “plans to ensure safe and reliable service this summer,” in particular over the July 4th holiday.
Obviously we’ve seen a huge number of flight disruptions in recent months as travel demand has surge, and that’s only likely to get worse, as leisure travel demand is reaching new levels this summer.
This meeting comes after Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey raised concerns about how unreliably airlines are operating. Meanwhile airlines have been trying to shift some blame to the Federal Aviation Administration, arguing that the nation’s air traffic control system needs to be prepared for an increase in demand, given that there have been issues there as well.
Prediction: nothing will change
Of course everyone is frustrated by how unreliably airlines are operating, but realistically I’m not sure a meeting between senior government officials and the airlines will solve much:
- It’s not that airlines don’t know they have operational problems, but rather they’re prioritizing profitability above operational reliability
- Airline executives are much more incentivized to maximize revenue rather than anything else, because at the end of the day that’s what they’re rewarded based on
- Realistically speaking, the government doesn’t actually have much leverage here, aside from just generally attempting to appear to stand up for consumers
- Fault for operational issues isn’t even entirely with airlines here, as there are also major staffing (and other) issues at every level of the aviation supply chain, ranging from Boeing not being able to deliver aircraft on time, to a shortage of airport contractors
- This isn’t just a US-centric problem, because just look at the current state of air travel in Europe, which isn’t exactly great either
Let me also say that while the lack of operational reliability in the airline industry is frustrating, I feel like people also kind of have unrealistic expectations. It’s not like reliability issues are limited to the airline industry. Getting anything on-time nowadays, from food delivery to a new car, is no small feat.
If you’re traveling this summer and want to be realistic, expecting that you’re going to be delayed by a day and that your bag is going to be lost. The truth is that this just the reality of travel at the moment, and I say that from experience. I passed through Frankfurt Airport today, and I’ve never seen it that busy before in my entire life.
Oh, and both of our bags were lost. Yet I’m not really upset about it, because I was kind of expecting that. Summer holidays haven’t even started in Germany, so it’s only going to get worse from here. None of that is to excuse what’s going on, but rather to simply point out that this is the reality of travel right now.
US Transportation Secretary Buttigieg is discussing airline operational reliability with industry CEOs today, so that these issues can be avoided ahead of the peak summer travel period.
While I can appreciate the intent behind this, I also can’t emphasize enough that air travel is going to be an operational disaster this summer, no matter what conversations take place. Sure, this is largely because airlines aren’t willing to sacrifice profits for operational reliability, but it also comes down to so many other factors that are contributing to reliable services throughout the economy.
What’s your take on this situation?