Reader's Replies

Here's your chance to join the fray and be heard.  You can respond to my columns and share your own opinions and insight.

  • Darren comments on alternatives to plane travel and reports on his post 9/11 travel experiences
  • Nick lists the reasons not to fly short distances
  • Jim gives another reason not to buy expensive airfares
  • Chris, a reader who works for a brewery, compares his company's safety standards with the airlines.  Scroll down to learn which he considers to be better!

Reader's Replies :  Other readers share their opinions and experiences.  You can too.  If you'd like to add your own commentary, please send me a note.





Darren, a reader in New York, writes :  I read your column on Joe B's site.  Airlines have been defying most of the basic rules of marketing and customer service for years. No matter what they continue to screw up. I work in NYC and generally fly out of Newark, though if there is a compelling reason I will go out of Kennedy or LaGuardia. My rule of thumb with short flights has always been if it is 5 hours or less by car to drive it. The logic here was 40 min - 1 hr to get to the airport depending on traffic, another hour or so till the flight based on arrival one hour prior to check in. Then one hour flight time assuming flight is on time etc. Then exiting the aircraft, picking up the rental car and luggage if it is a longer trip figure another 45 minutes. Assuming everything goes well this whole experience takes 3-1/2 hours, if not so well it can be 4 - 5 hours if not worse. These factors coupled with the fact that the airlines generally get you for at least $250 if you get a really good deal, more in most cases and a rental car can generally be obtained for +/- $55/day make it much more logical to go with the car. You are not saving that much time by flying, it is just a different way to spend that time.

I have flown twice since 9/11. The first time was great since it was shortly after and the airports were empty. The next time was terrible, the lines to go through security were horrendous. The problem was they did not have all the machines working since there were not enough people. The security people were also confused about what was now permissible and what wasn't. That is fine, but when you tie up the line debating with some woman whether or not she can take tweezers on the plane, just to have her leave them at the gate, and go through, stop in a store and spend a couple of bucks on another pair to take on the plane, well that is absurd. Yes, I witnessed this whole thing, all that was accomplished was aggravating the passenger, the people behind her and helping the business of the struggling store in the terminal. Note of common sense here, prohibit stores in airport terminals from selling articles banned from aircraft. My experience with the current state of affairs at the airports now has caused me to reevaluate my 5 hour rule and I can report my driving tolerance has increased to the 6 - 7 hour limit before looking at a flight. I also consider Amtrak for some of these border line trips. Not because of safety issues, but for convenience. It is sad to report that beside going to Washington or Boston and points in between Amtrak leaves much to be desired in scheduling.

Following some simple steps will get people back on planes.

* Invest in security to quickly and efficiently get people through
* Make aircraft more comfortable
* Treat passengers like customers rather than criminals or misfits
* When inconveniencing a "customer" make every reasonable effort to satisfy them rather than the usual bad attitude

I'm not going to detail those points, I'll be here all day, but I'm sure they all know what I'm talking about.

Nick from Dubuque IA writes :  I enjoyed your column this morning - found it in "Joe Sent Me."  I suggest the following alternative for your Professor Burton:

  • Drive from Charleston to Atlanta
  • It's about 500 miles
  • Takes about 7 hours.
  • Costs @ 30 cents per mile - $150.00 each way - $300.00 total
      (actual out of pocket cost is significantly less than this).
  • No need to arrive anywhere early.
  • No security checkpoints.
  • Take whatever bags you want - what the hell, take your pocket knife along too, if you want.
  • No standing in line anywhere.
  • No carrying bags anywhere.
  • Listen to your own tunes on your own CD player - use your cell phone all you want.
  • No eating airline food.
  • No Saturday night stay.
  • No 7 day or 14 day or 21 day "early purchase" requirement.
  • No shuttle ride to the rental car agency - no waiting - no carrying bags.
  • No paying for the plane ticket and the rental car - About $500.00 minimum - even if the airlines "smartened up" on their pricing - which they aren't likely to do.
  • No need to return rental car. Buy gas only when you really need it.
  • No worrying about flight delays or cancellations.

As the airlines have made it increasingly expensive and uncomfortable to fly, I have done more driving. My current rule of thumb - Under 700 miles, I drive. All things considered, it's the low hassle, low cost alternative. Many times, it's just as quick.  Thanks again for the column.

Jim from Baltimore writes :  In your article titled: 'The Failing Airline Industry - Suffering from Self Inflicted Wounds?' I'm behind you "not standing in those security lines".

As a BWI - Us Airways GOLD FF, I am NOT going to be paying $2100 fares to the West Coast even if I can bill one or two customers. In part to pay for repainting their jets from "US Air" to "US Airways" so they look more International as I was told by one flight attendant.

However, I have 600,000 miles banked in my US Airways account and I don't want to loose them if the airline goes under. They just announced a few days ago they are cutting back flights at BWI by 40%.

BUT - I'm not sure where to go with my required business travel.

David replies :  The thought of a $2100 fare (please tell me its round trip!) to the West Coast really does give my old fashioned 'protestant work ethic' pause for worry, and you open up an added dimension in how the market responds to outrageous fares. Not only do the airlines price themselves out of reach of many potential customers, but they also go outside what people consider as 'fair' pricing and lose support and credibility across the board.

Imagine if a supermarket adopted a similar strategy with loaves of bread. Normally they sell loaves of bread for, say, $3. If a loaf is getting close to stale, they'll sell it for $1. So far, so good, and indeed this is exactly what happens. But if they have had a rush on bread that day, what do they do to the price of their remaining loaves? If an airline CEO took over a supermarket chain, he'd have the store managers changing the price of bread a dozen times a day, and potentially a loaf of bread might end up costing you $30 if it was in short supply and being purchased just before lunchtime!!! Would you feel good about that supermarket's fairness? I doubt it!

As for what to do as an alternative to US Airways, that is a big problem, isn't it. However, there is one encouraging note to seize on. It interests me to note that the airlines that have broken out of the traditional airline paradigm seem to be the only ones that are doing well at present. In the US, that means airlines such as Southwest and Jet Blue; internationally it means airlines such as Ryanair (would you believe that little upstart Irish discount carrier Ryanair now has a greater market capitalisation than huge enormous BA!). One can only hope that these carriers will start to provide the service that we all need on the city pair routings that we all travel.

Chris from a leading US brewery writes :   I fly at least 2 r/t flights per month, and after the attack on September 11th, I can't believe that the airline employees are now ruder than ever! Do they not realize that their industry allowed known terrorists on planes which resulted in the deaths of over 5,000 people? I would be ashamed to be part of such an industry, and I would be on my best behavior.

If I saw my company doing things that could result in poor quality products, I would make sure that management knew about it and did something about it immediately. Thank God, I work for a company who takes quality seriously - and all we make is beer, beer bottles, and beer and soda cans. How pathetic that we take the safety and quality of our product much more seriously than the Airlines!!!! Any employee that knew about the security problems at American and United and did not speak up is partly responsible for the 5,000+ deaths. If beer got out with chipped glass in it, and I knew about it and didn't speak up - I would feel very guilty, but I know that would never happen because of the strict Quality Procedures we have in place. I know I am preaching to the choir, but it just feels good to bitch!

What do you think?. Send David an Email - [email protected]

Copyright 2001 by David M Rowell.