Here's your chance to join the fray and be heard. You can respond to my columns and share your own opinions and insight.
Jim from Tampa writes : There is a way to turn around a 757 as quickly as a 737. The 757 has two sets of doors. One is just behind the cockpit. The other is further back, usually next to the partition that some airlines use to separate business class from coach. If there are two jetways, both doors can be used simultaneously to load and unload passengers. I believe that Delta plans to use such a system for the new carrier. My guess is that's why they are initially offering service between two airports in the northeast and two in Florida. If the system works, they will expend additional funds to modify gates at other airports.
Despite what I've said above, I still don't think that the concept will work. What Delta's employees lack is the teamwork approach that you find at Southwest and other upstart carriers. I've observed the crews at Southwest handle an aircraft arriving at a gate. Within seconds of the chock blocks being put under the wheels, bags are rolling off and fuel is being pumped. The gate agent operates the jetway and has the door open with passengers exiting. As soon as the last passenger has deplaned, the flight attendants go through the cabin disposing of trash left behind. The gate agent now has the emplaning passengers lined up in groups labeled A, B, and C. They are ready to board as soon as the cabin has been declared ready. Everyone knows their job and does it well. Twenty minutes after the chock blocks were put in place, they are removed and the aircraft is ready to roll. I've watched Delta people go through the same exercises. They just don't work together.
Recently, while seated at a window of a Delta MD-80, I observed the driver of a Tug vehicle arrive at the last minute with three bags that had not been loaded on the flight. There was no baggage handler next to the conveyor belt, but I'm certain that a worker was in the belly of the plane arranging bags. The driver placed two of the bags on the belt and the third bag partially on the metal lip a the bottom of the belt. He then started the belt and drove away without looking back. Had he looked, he would have seen that the third bag did not go up the belt. Several Delta employees walked or drove by. Nothing was done. It took at least five minutes for someone to come along and move the bag about 6 inches so that it would catch on the belt. This observation has convinced me that Delta is going to have quite a challenge in retraining it's people to get them to the efficiency level of the low cost carriers. If they can't do this, they can kiss their new airline (and possibly their old one) goodbye.
David replies : I believe that Southwest may also use both doors at some airports. But you are of course correct - both when you point out that passengers can deplane/emplane faster through two doors, and also when you point out that Delta has other challenges that will likely negate any efficiencies that using both doors might offer!
Tom from the East coast writes : The additional question is how are they going to get 13.2 hours daily utilization per aircraft, flying between the northeast and Florida? Also, so what if flight attendants work longer days in exchange for more days off --- that does not increase productivity!
David replies : Labor costs are, of course, the biggest single cost category for any airline operation. I haven't seen any details at all on how Delta plans to control and reduce its labor costs for its new operation, and one has to worry that Delta's silence on this vital point means that the issue remains, as yet, unresolved.
Skip from Tennessee writes : If you want to see something with a different name that is an operating disaster, yet 100% owned and operated by Delta Air Lines, take a look at an outfit called ASA. That entity gives nightmares to its passengers and the cities whose travelers must rely on it.
An internet reader writes : I recently flew Southwest for the first time and it will now be, without question, my first choice regardless of price. On time. Comfortable. Good frequent flyer deals. Nice people.
I worry a lot about airlines running off to the government (taxpayers) for more loans. I suppose the government will give them what they want, depending upon their campaign contributions. For all of the radical republicans screaming about "socialism" and liberals, I'm not sure what we call these taxpayer loans.
Al from Mississippi writes : Here in Jackson, Mississippi, Delta used to be "My Airline." On a recent Southwest trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Jackson, a Miami lawyer and a retired couple from Monroe, La, shared my sentiments that Delta sucks and we don't fly them if we have a choice!
Donald from the internet writes : In 1970, Robert Townsend wrote a book titled "Up the Organization". I have always felt that the book was way ahead of its time.
Anyhow, from that book, on the topic of "greed" (page 127):
To increase our share of the market a few years ago, I was on the verge of approving the startup of a new subsidiary -- which would compete with our bread-and-butter business -- at discount prices. To verify my own brilliance, I tried the idea out on a tall, rangy regional vice-president named Stepnowski. After hearing the plan described in some detail, he sank the whole project with one sentence: "I don't know what YOU call it, but we Polacks call that 'pissing in the soup'"
DL is truly 'pissing in the soup'. I have to believe that Leo and Vicki have lost their marbles. After seeing what happened to US, UA, and CO in their "low cost" operations, why do they think that using a 757 will make all the difference??
Ira from New York writes : Any reason why you didn't mention Jet Blue...currently the largest carrier on the NY to Southern Fla routes, a low cost carrier, and one that flies larger planes on it's routes?
David replies : You are correct that JetBlue will be another major competitor that the Delta operation will have to contend with. I did briefly refer to JetBlue in the red sidebar at the top of the article.
But you are not correct when you suggest that JetBlue operates larger planes. It has a fleet of new Airbus A320 planes, each with a capacity of 162 passengers; substantially less than the 200-250 passengers that the 757 carries.
What do you think?. Send David an Email - [email protected]
Copyright 2002 by David M Rowell.