This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 29, 2002 9:40 PM. The previous post in this blog was Blew out my (psychic) flip-flop. The next post in this blog is Jimmy the Greek, I ain't. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, September 29, 2002

Delta blues

Even the U.S. Postal Service can now track a package and post its location on the Internet. So how can a major U.S. airline lose a suitcase for 24 hours, and be able to provide the bag's owner absolutely no clue as to its whereabouts? Easy, if you're Delta Air Lines. My recent trip to Atlanta was badly marred by the incompetence of the Delta baggage "system" (if you can call it that). Plus some wickedly arrogant "customer service." I journeyed 2500 miles in a most uncomfortable (albeit new) seat to wind up addressing 600 distinguished professionals, with me wearing a T-shirt that I had had on for the better part of 24 hours. My compensation for this "inconvenience"? Why, nothing. The bag got there 22 hours after I did, which is two less than 24, and so Delta wouldn't even pick up the cost of a spare toothbrush.

I thought the government and the airlines were bending over backward to make sure that every bag on a U.S. aircraft had its owner on board the same plane. Guess I was wrong.

It ain't just 9-11 that's bankrupting this industry. A little thing called hubris is at work here, too. For 20 years the airline execs screamed incessantly that what was really needed was deregulation, deregulation, and more deregulation. The almighty Free Market would make everything work better than ever before. Government should just leave the benign carriers alone to work their magic!

Now with 12 bad months under their belts, they're back on Capitol Hill crying, "Mommy, Mommy, we need another bailout!" As they say on the Hollywood Squares, I disagree. There will always be a sizeable U.S. airline industry -- the fleets are there, the crews are there, the passengers are there. The real question is whether this set of managers, and the shareholders who saw fit to put them in charge, should have their sacrosanct Free Market Risks retroactively forgiven by the U.S. taxpayer. If it were up to me, I'd let them all go under, and we'd start all over. Within a few months, everything would be similar to the way it is now, except that we'd substitute: New managers. New investors. And a new regulatory scheme.

Maybe not everyone would get to fly wherever they wanted at the drop of a hat. So be it. As it stands, the industry is asking to become the next Amtrak, only with rich executives and fat-cat owners left in place. Toupees of Congress, just say no.

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