United Airlines - Giving Capitalism a Bad Name

Running an airline is extraordinarily complex, challenging, expensive and unrewarding.  I know, I used to work for an airline many years ago.  We once counted the number of people doing different jobs, who met an airplane every time it landed at our hub.  It was something like 20...you had gate agents, cleaners, baggage handlers, caterers, wheelchair pushers, flaggers, maintenance, fuelers and on and on it went.  That makes for an extraordinarily complex business.  Moreover, you have maintenance issues, weather problems, an antiquated air traffic control system, pilots/flight attendants calling in sick, irritated passengers, flight crew timing-out and over-bookings. Oh yes, the over-bookings.

The airline industry somehow thinks it's ok to sell you a ticket, take your money then not allow you to travel.  It's a truly lopsided arrangement because they have all the power and it is often abused by the airline.  What happened on United plays out thousands of times a day.  They just ran into a passenger who, for whatever reason, said F-U to United.  Then United calls in the goons and turns this into a complete PR nightmare.  To somehow make matters even worse, the buffoon CEO of United says exactly the wrong thing.

I frankly think the airline industry is pretty amazing.  You can fly around the world for hundreds of dollars if you wait for a good deal and go to places our ancestors couldn't have imagined. However, this mixture of greed (overselling seats), lack of competition, terrible airports, government incompetence (outdated air traffic control), TSA nonsense, thoughtless policies (capping the amount you offer to force someone to not take the flight they paid for) and indifferent employees is a devilish mixture.  

If we had a true Capitalist airline industry, the airports would be privatized (as they are in Mexico, New Zealand and many parts of Asia and Europe), there would be many more seats for sale (due to more competition) and the airlines would actually have to compete on customer service and value to get your business.  

Capitalism is far from the problem with the airline industry.  The real problem is a mixture of government regulation that allows the Big Four airlines to provide crappy service that you and I are forced to accept, an unbelievably complex operation and government incompetence that nearly ensures our flights can't go in and out of airports smoothly and on-time.  

What will come from all this?  I can just about guarantee more government regulation to "help" solve the problem they helped cause in the first place.  It will only make it worse.