Terror at Ten Feet

Whenever I see the corporate logo of Northwest Airlines (NWA), I always think of a band that came straight outta Compton all those many years ago.

Anyhoo, NWA and Delta are in merger talks to become the world's biggest, and certainly worst in terms of service and pricing, airline (as it is, they both suck pretty hard right now). The pilots at both joints are lukewarm-to-cold on the deal and various congress critters have spoken out against the deal. Neither will be able to put the kibosh on things, though they can make the eventual outcome more difficult and costly.

A snippet from one article:

"It's not an industry that works," said Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America, who lobbied Congress against a bid by US Airways for Delta last year.

"We're now getting to the point where there are so few carriers left, and they still can't make money," he said yesterday.

Delta and Northwest said they have no current plans to cut more U.S. flights beyond what they have disclosed separately -- something analysts see as limiting the cost savings or higher fares the airlines could reap from the deal. The carriers also don't plan to close any of their hubs. But they didn't rule out further capacity cuts in the future if fuel prices continue to rise....

The executives said they would like to close the deal by the end of this year, which would be before the merger-friendly Bush administration leaves office.

Several lawmakers already have railed against a Northwest-Delta combination, arguing that the deal will decrease competition and lead to higher fares. But Congress has little power to stop a transaction, and most experts believe the Justice Department will approve it.

I like mergers and I don't fear bigger companies that result from them, even if mergers typically fail when it comes most measures of success. Airline deregulation in terms of pricing of tickets has been an absolutely great thing, though it was never extended to airports and air traffic control, which creates all sorts of problems. The troubles with the airline industry are due to a lack of free markets (including the prohibition on foreign ownership of "domestic" carriers), not their presence. Bailed out after the 9/11 attacks, expect the ailing airline industry to keep going back for more at the government teat on a regular basis. The airline industry is one of the worst when it comes to pushing "free markets" when it benefits them, then crying for government protection/intervention when that will help them out.

Tell your tales of Shatnerian "Nightmares at 20,000 Feet"—or, much more likely, on the tarmac or in the terminal—here.

And go Braniff!

Update: Skip Oliva notes via email, "The other problem that you did not state is that antitrust regulation prohibits most temporary alliances—aka "cartels"—that might make more economic sense than outright mergers.

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  • Oddity||

  • Guy Montag||

    Delta sucks right now? Well, you have probably flown with them more recently than I (has been about 7 years or so for me) and I really enjoyed the experience. By far much better than USAirways, better than United too.

    My only first-class experience was with Delta too. Perhaps it is my limited sample that is the problem?

  • ||

    Whenever I see the corporate logo of Northwest Airlines (NWA), I always think of a band that came straight outta Compton all those many years ago.

    And I see you found a picture of them as well.

  • Guy Montag||

    And go Braniff!

    Oh wow, missed that one :)

    When I was flying for the TNARNG (some may wish to shield their doveish eyes, I have a military background) out of Smyrna, TN, what seemed to be the whole Braniff fleet was sitting on the un-used portion of our airfield after they went under. I think it was not long after they finally got all of the Eastern Airlines planes out of there.

  • ||

    Go Braniff!
    Go Frontier!
    Go Eastern!
    Go ValuJet!
    Go Peoples Express!
    Go Atlanta Air!
    Go Midwest Express!
    Go Independence Air!
    Go Air Florida!
    Go Pan Am!
    Go PSA!
    Go Republic!
    Go TWA!

    All we are hearing on the news in Atlanta is that the "lack of competion will probably raise air fares". Yeah. Let's hope so.

    CB
    Disclaimer - second generation Delta Air Lines retiree.

  • Dave W.||

    I don't like mergers and I think bigger companies that result in less economic competition and therefore in markets less free. Mergers always fail when it comes all true measures of success because they are counter-free-market.

    And I don't think it is anti-libertarian to say so, either. Here is a story that reminds me of Mr. Gillespie:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=558348&in_page_id=1770

  • ||

    I don't like mergers and I think bigger companies that result in less economic competition and therefore in markets less free.

    Wha?

  • ||

    Delta used to be my airline of choice, back when I flew more often for work. Then again, maybe I just like Atlanta.

    What airline was Shatner flying? I'd like to avoid any planes with creatures chewing through cables.

  • Guy Montag||

    I heart mergers. They allow firms to get big and sluggish, allowing smaller firms to enter the marketplace to provide better niche services and grow to be better than the old firms they replaced.

  • Elemenope||

    I like mergers and I don't fear bigger companies that result from them...

    Because you apparently didn't read any good books or watch any good movies ever...

    Shit, man, anything by Gibson or Heinlein or Stephenson and you'd be running away from megacorps like a slapped bitch.

  • Guy Montag||

    What airline was Shatner flying? I'd like to avoid any planes with creatures chewing through cables.

    From the odor of that episode I would guess air france.

  • Dave W.||

    I love it when corporatarians masquerade as libertarians because their bs gets so thick that it makes the more open-minded people see that corporatarians are more about liberty for the rich than liberty for the public, and are not friends of the movement.

  • ||

    Didn't Shatner in his role as the Big Giant Head suffer a similar experience? Since Lithgow reprised the Shat's famed Twilight Zone appearance in the movie, I guess that the writers had no choice.

  • Guy Montag||

    The Lithgow version was the best.

  • ||

    "We decided one big pile of garbage was better than two little piles of garbage, and rather than bring that one up, we decided to throw ours down.

    "So we did."

  • tarran||

    I don't like mergers and I think bigger companies that result in less economic competition and therefore in markets less free.



    Wha?



    Sage, I call it FDR libertarianism - they feel that any reduction in production, even if it is a reaction to reduced demand, makes us "less free".

    Rather than recognizing that contraction and consolidation free up labor and capital for different, more desired forms of production, they focus on "that which is seen", that an industry has shrunk. And they are quite happy to point guns at people to force them to continue doing the unprofitable things and to keep them from doing what consumers actually want.

  • ||

    I prefer Terror at 5½ Feet.

    Bart: Milhouse...Milhouse, wake up, quick! Look out the window.
    Milhouse: No way, Bart. If I lean over, I leave myself open to wedgies, wet willies, or even the dreaded rear-admiral!

  • Dave W.||

    Sage, I call it FDR libertarianism - they feel that any reduction in production, even if it is a reaction to reduced demand, makes us "less free".

    Wha?

  • Guy Montag||

    Rather than recognizing that contraction and consolidation free up labor and capital for different, more desired forms of production, they focus on "that which is seen", that an industry has shrunk. And they are quite happy to point guns at people to force them to continue doing the unprofitable things and to keep them from doing what consumers actually want.

    Thank goodness they did not show up until long after the "buggie whip industry crisis"! If that were the case, we would still be using buggy whips for accelerators of animals.

  • chance the gardener||

    As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden . . . In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

  • ||

    JET-AMTRAK
    just say'n

  • Guy Montag||

    chance the gardener, I was thinking about that movie during this discussion too, but was too lazy to look up the lines.

  • Taktix®||

    I don't like mergers and I think bigger companies that result in less economic competition and therefore in markets less free. Mergers always fail when it comes all true measures of success because they are counter-free-market.

    Well, when you buy your own airline, you can't prevent it from merging all you want.

  • Guy Montag||

    Also, he can, too :)

  • ||

    I've flown KLM/NWA a lot, and I've always had good service with them. Most recently, when my father died unexpectedly, they allowed me to change the return date on my 'no refund, no changes' ticket so that I could attend the wake with no additional charges at all. And their Detroit International hub is totally sweet. They were usually a little more pricy than other airlines, but I liked them well enough to pay the extra $.

    My one and only flying experience with Delta, on the other hand, was a disaster.

    So going as these things go, I'm sure that the new merged airline will have Delta's level of service at Northwest's prices. It's a win-win! :-(

  • chance||

    Life is a state of mind.

  • Episiarch||

    Uh, Guy, Air France is a pretty good airline. In my experience, they have competitive prices, are on time, and you get to switch planes in Paris. Plus, their food is actually OK (for airline food).

    I'd like to point out that Nightmare at 20,000 Feet was written by the awesome Richard Matheson as a short story originally, and was super creepy.

  • Guy Montag||

    Episiarch,

    The next thing you will be telling us is that they are human.

  • frequent flyer||

    1.3 million frequent flyer miles with NWA/KLM since 1995

    Also flown:

    American (domestic only)
    Qantas
    Delta (international)
    British Airways (European routes only)
    Air Lingus (European routes only)
    Air France (European routes only)
    Lufthansa (international and European routes)
    Singapore
    China Southern

    Every big airline is really two airlines: international and domestic/continental.

    Pretty much every international airline is a pleasant experience (although SIA is a real cool way to go). Pretty much every domestic/continental airline sucks, some worse than others.

    I have no real complaints about NWA. It has busses with wings, they mostly leave on time, they mostly arrive on time, and they have misplaced my bags less often than others.

  • ||

    My worst airline story of all time (shockingly, it happened at LaGuardia, not JFK):

    I was going to a friend's wedding in North Carolina, and my flight was supposed to leave at 6 PM. I arrived 2 hours early and parked in the long-term parking (I was planning to be gone for 4 days). I went through security and arrived at my terminal, only to see that the flight was delayed by 30 minutes. Oh well. So, I waited. And waited. And every 30 minutes, the flight was delayed another 30 minutes, but this was not reported until the absolute last possible minute. Finally, at 1 AM, the flight was cancelled. I was pissed because I ended up having to call one of my best friends at his bachelor party and say "hey man, I can't make it until tomorrow." The icing on the cake? Since I had to go back home to wait for the flight the next day (there wasn't another one available until 5 PM the following day), I took my car out of long term parking. Of course, this meant I had to pay 60 dollars for parking for about 8 hours.

    FUCK YOU, US AIR!

  • ||

    Also, does anyone know whether or not the inability of airlines to turn a profit and please their customers is a uniquely American problem, or if it is universal?

  • tarran||

    dave W.

    To answer your incomprehension, why don't you tell me how a merger harms consumers from the consumer's perspective?

    Is it that they have to pay higher prices?

    Is it that they have to settle for reduced service?

    Is it that they have fewer options as to when to fly?

    How exactly is a person who says "I need to fly from X to Y" worse off?

    If you answer these questions honestly, I, or someone else who knows a little about economics, will be happy to explain why your opposition to mergers amounts to a version of what I call FDR libertarianism (although you might have to wait till tonight for my response - I will be travelling this afternoon and early evening).

  • ||

    Also, does anyone know whether or not the inability of airlines to turn a profit and please their customers is a uniquely American problem, or if it is universal?

    I don't know the answer to that question, but I believe a lot of non-US airlines get pretty substantial state subsidies.

  • ktc2||

    I always found the best price on NWA for my flights to the philippines. Hmm...wonder what this is going to do to my frequent flier miles.

  • Jozef||

    Living in Atlanta, I occasionally have no choice but flying Delta. It's vastly overpriced, and its service (as in "friendliness" and "willingness to help") sucks. When I lived in NJ, I had a wide choice, especially for transatlantic flights, and whenever possible I opted for SAS. Currently, even if there is a direct connection between Atlanta and Dublin (my most common route) with Delta, I find it cheaper and more reliable to fly with Continental on route Atlanta-Newark-Dublin.

  • Ska||

    It's the world's biggest dick -
    Don't matter just don't bite it
    She swallowed it.....


    or Automobile. Some real gems on that disc.

  • BakedPenguin||

    The Twilight Zone photo is so distorted on my machine, I first thought the actor on the plane was Dick York.

  • frequent flyer||

    Hmm...wonder what this is going to do to my frequent flier miles.

    Believe it or not, frequent flyer programs are a profit center for an airline. They sell miles to third-parties (like credit card companies) for use as incentives.

    Neither party in the merged airline wants to lose that base of paying customers. There should be little to no impact on existing frequent flyer programs. Although it could be years, if ever, before the two programs merge.

  • Dave W.||

    To answer your incomprehension, why don't you tell me how a merger harms consumers from the consumer's perspective?

    Well, the most obvious part answer is pricing power. The more consolidated the supply side is relative to the demand side, then the more pricing power the supply side collectively has, and money-wise, the suppliers win and the customers lose. This part is so obvious it does not even bear discussion.

    Let's move on to some of the more subtle (and perhaps more important) stuf.

    There is more than one way to design a plane.

    There is more than one way to do pricing.

    There is more than one way to do screening.

    There is more than one way to do customer service.

    There is more than one way to do baggage handling.

    there is more than one way to determine routes.

    Etc, etc, etc.

    The best way to optimize these variables, and the inevitable tradeoffs that must be made between them is trial and error. Even after there is enough data to optimize, there may be no single best approach (that is, set of tradeoffs) and a mixed strategy may be appropriate.

    Having less competition decreases the amount and vigor of this trial and error process. It is pretty easy to see why it decreases the number of trials. More difficult to perceive is the loss in vigor. For example, even if two (and only two) companies did (for some reason) offer a service smordgasbord, the smorgasbord will tend to be less crative and varied than if the service options arose of 200 or 2,000 separate companies.

    To bring it home in the present context: I would love to see an airline say "we do less security because that is less hassles -- we dare the terrorists to try to bring one of our birds down despite the de-emphasis of security measures -- less security = less hassles" I would fly them. I bet you would, too. However, you are not going to see that happening as long as airlines are managed by oligopoly thinking as they are now.

  • Rhywun||

    Is anyone really surprised at the correlation between cheap air fares and shitty service? The basic plan for any business is to cut as many corners as possible without pissing off too many customers. Airline customers have shown a preference for lower fares over improved service, so that's what they get. The fact that the companies still can't make any money doing it must be pretty galling.

  • frequent flyer||

    Dave, the airlines are not the problem. The problem is that the airline ownership is restricted, airspace is restricted, and most importantly, airports are restricted.

    You should spend less time worrying about airline mergers and spend alot more energy getting regulations revoked that limit foreign ownership of US carriers and work toward getting more global-level open skies agreements in place.

    Then you'll see competition.

  • Sam Grove||

    We're going to have to give up on air travel to pay for SS and Medicare.

    We need some foreign carriers to service domestic travel. And Filipino nurses to take care of aging 'boomers'.

  • frequent flyer||

    The fact that the companies still can't make any money doing it must be pretty galling.

    See my previous post . . .

  • Dave W.||

    The problem is that the airline ownership is restricted, airspace is restricted, and most importantly, airports are restricted.

    1. Airline ownership should be regulated only with the objective of decreasing consolidation.

    2. Airspace and airports are natural monopolies, unavoidably. As such, they need to be regulaed, sadly. Much of this regulation should be aimed at preventing consolidation in ancillary businesses (like airline ownership).

  • ||

    I heart mergers. They allow firms to get big and sluggish, allowing smaller firms to enter the marketplace to provide better niche services and grow to be better than the old firms they replaced.

    That's terrible logic. Let small firms get acquired by big ones so the niche services they used to provide go away. This opens up opportunities for small firms to provide those services again. You should read about the broken windows fallacy.

    By the way, I love mergers because it keeps me employed. Though mergers should be looked at in two lenses. Small strategic acquisitions are good, it generally gives a small company with a good product, but limited channel access to the larger company's channels and operational efficiencies. Mergers of equals (or relative equals) are generally shit shows that destroy shareholder value.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I haven't forgotten standing in the Miami terminal at the America West terminal with two little kids in wet bathing suits, no money, and no tickets after we were ripped off for everything we had (stupid us, stopping at the beach on the way to the airport).

    The shit bag manager looked right at our paid for ticket records on his computer screen and said sorry, you'll have to buy new tickets.

    I'll skip all the arguing back and forth with peons and supervisors and cut to the chase. Luckily, Mrs TWC had put the Discover card in the baby bag instead of her wallet so we were able to get tickets home.

    Didn't bother that asshole a bit to let us on the plane without ID, which, even in those days, was not allowed.




  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    sorry about the tags, got so worked up I wasn't paying attention!

  • Guy Montag||

    Is anyone really surprised at the correlation between cheap air fares and shitty service? The basic plan for any business is to cut as many corners as possible without pissing off too many customers.

    I never got that impression at Morton's of Chicago. Perhaps I need to be a better observer.

  • Episiarch||

    Dave, if there are 50 companies in a market and 2 merge, and there are now 49 companies (and new ones can enter any time), how is that a problem?

    You seem so afraid of mergers that you can't stand a single one.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Dave, I'm going to invoke the drinking and rule and call your libertarian bona fides into question, on account of you believing that airlines and airports need to be regulated.

    SEE: The Beloved Founder of Reason Foundation, Mr Bob Poole hisself, has spent much of his adult life studying transportation issue, and, he has written extensively about the problems of airports and air travel, in short, he is the PREMIER EXPERT on the subject, and his conclusion is more or less exactly what Ms Frequent Flyer had to say.

  • GILMORE||

    my tale of terror was being on the TSA watch-list all through 2007, and having to fly about 40+ times.

    That is, if "terror" is extreme boredom and frustration with highschool dropouts trying to figure out whether my sensible explanations were some kind of sophisticated ploy to undermine America.

    which of course, they are/were

    the only other complaint was AirTran canceling flights and leaving me to sleep in the Atlanta airport, twice. I hate airports.

    The planes, geez, once they get off the ground, life is sweet. At least they haven't banned $5 whiskey and cute flight attendants.

  • Dave W.||

    Morton's of Chicago

    Now there is a market with some competition. there is a free market. And you know what . . . that is the GOOD STUF.

    They even have restaurants that serve only breakfast cereal. They got alllllllll kinds of restaurants. The only way to improve consumer choice in the restaurant market would be if they could invent a restaurant that served Boylan's!

  • Guy Montag||

    Mo,

    You still can't bother to read what is written so just ignore me as I tend to ignore you.

  • Dave W.||

    You seem so afraid of mergers that you can't stand a single one.

    That is not true at all. I agree with some of what Mo said. I only hate mergers in markets that are too consolidated already, and even then only if one of the merging parties has too much market share.

    Bob Poole is not the godfater of libertarianism. Bob Poole is the godfather of the abusive, destructive marriage of libertarianism to corporatarianism. I am just trying to get the divorce going and am happy that HnR is committed enough to free speech to give me a well-positioned balko-nie.

  • frequent flyer||

    Airline ownership should be regulated only with the objective of decreasing consolidation.

    Airline's should only be regulated for safety purposes. Quality of service is not something the government should give a damn about (which is obvious when it comes to their own businesses).

    Airspace and airports are natural monopolies, unavoidably.

    Bandwidth clearly has an upper limit. That does not imply in anyway that they are monopolies. Airspace is utilized far below available bandwidth due to regulations written decades ago when technology made it difficult for a single entity (the government) to keep track of all the flying objects in the airspace. Government regulations are probably the single greatest impediment to increasing airspace utilization today. Ditto for airports.

    As such, they need to be regulaed, sadly. Much of this regulation should be aimed at preventing consolidation in ancillary businesses (like airline ownership).

    Opening up the available bandwidth to bidding would do far more to improve competition and quality of service than any set of regulations the government can write.

  • GILMORE||

    The only way to improve consumer choice in the restaurant market would be if they could invent a restaurant that served Boylan's

    You can get boylan's soda in a lot of places in NYC. Mostly delis. But also a lot of soul food joints.

    Better though is Dr. Browns Black Cherry. Ummm. HFCS-intensity. Goes best with corned beef on rye.

  • frequent flyer||

    Ms Frequent Flyer

    MS? Is my writing really that effeminate? I know my penis is short, but I do have one.

  • GILMORE||

    the abusive, destructive marriage of libertarianism to corporatarianism

    Whats that about?

    Is it like, the idea that we dont need government to protect us from annoying advertising, product placement etc?

    I still havent figured out from anyone what the hell corporations have ever done to anyone other than keep prices low and products widely available.

    The horror, the horror

  • Dave W.||

    Airline's should only be regulated for safety purposes.

    see, I don't agree. I think a tort based solution is more compatible with business and individual freedom. In other words, I think a tort solution is the libertarian way to go on this.

  • Dave W.||

    You can get boylan's soda in a lot of places in NYC. Mostly delis.

    I was in NYC a couple weeks ago to be on the Today Show. I didn't see it, but I was there less than 24 hrs.

  • GILMORE||

    Cherry tort?

  • GILMORE||

    Dave W. | April 16, 2008, 11:51am | #

    You can get boylan's soda in a lot of places in NYC. Mostly delis.

    I was in NYC a couple weeks ago to be on the Today Show. I didn't see it, but I was there less than 24 hrs.


    If the today show is still in Rockefeller center, you missed a decent opportunity for lunch at Carnegie deli.

    http://www.carnegiedeli.com/id20.html

    Some people will get a coronary just reading the menu. My fave is the turkey, corned beef, swiss, coleslaw and russian on pumpernickel. About the size of a newborn baby.

    Yes, we name a lot of institutions here after rich capitalists. Ooooh. Evil!

  • frequent flyer||

    I mean I used to have one . . .

    It's not like I use it that often . . .

    So I could have lost it . . .

    I need to go check . . .

  • Dave W.||

    I still havent figured out from anyone what the hell corporations have ever done to anyone other than keep prices low and products widely available.

    no. they get big, corner markets and frustrate Adam Smith's glorious vision.

    In theory, you can get destructively big without benefit of the government bestowed subsidy of the corporate form. In theory.

    Back on planet Earth, the corporate form is the worst government perpetrated abuse of the people because of the free-market-crapping-up degree of consolidation it allows as a practical matter.

  • GILMORE||

    I should add, the prices will also give most people a coronary

  • frequent flyer||

    In other words, I think a tort solution is the libertarian way to go on this.

    So no safety regulations, we just let the next of kin sue for damages right? Which is a point I have argued for in the past and you have explicitly rejected.

  • GILMORE||

    Dave W. | April 16, 2008, 11:57am | #

    re: corporashuns

    no. they get big, corner markets and frustrate Adam Smith's glorious vision


    Really?

    So, like... how have they fucked up your life lately?

    Shitty TV?

  • Dave W.||

    I went to the Oyster Bar. It was nice to order Viognier in a restaurant. Can't do that where I live. And we got mussels. And I tried sturgeon for the first time.

    My wife said we are not allowed to go to Michael Jordan's steakhouse. Ever. It did not appeal to her sensibilities somehow.

  • GILMORE||

    Dave W. | April 16, 2008, 12:00pm | #

    I went to the Oyster Bar. It was nice to order Viognier in a restaurant. Can't do that where I live. And we got mussels. And I tried sturgeon for the first time.

    My wife said we are not allowed to go to Michael Jordan's steakhouse. Ever. It did not appeal to her sensibilities somehow.


    Probably that "corporate" thing you've got going.

    Even though he's like, a basketball player who's a self-made man.

    Their steak sandwich is quite good. Hope you tried the chowder at the oyster bar. It's butter-tastic.

  • Rhywun||

    I never got that impression at Morton's of Chicago. Perhaps I need to be a better observer.

    I don't know what that is--something high class? High class will get you nice seats on an airplane, but it's still subject to all the cost-cutting that's been done on the ground.

  • Guy Montag||

    That does not imply in anyway that they are monopolies. Airspace is utilized far below available bandwidth due to regulations written decades ago when technology made it difficult for a single entity (the government) to keep track of all the flying objects in the airspace.

    No kidding! These non-mil feds and the corporate guys are such wusses! During formations, I could keep a UH-1H 1/2 of a rotor disk seperation (rotor blade to rotor blade) from just after takeoff until final.

    These guys just ain't trying.

  • Guy Montag||

    Rhywun,

    It is a pretty nice place to eat, with really nice decorations, woodwork, they even have metal knives and forks, real linen napkins too!

  • ||

    It is a pretty nice place to eat, with really nice decorations, woodwork, they even have metal knives and forks, real linen napkins too!

    They should put wheels on it. Think of the property taxes they could save.

  • GILMORE||

    frequent flyer | April 16, 2008, 11:49am | #

    Ms Frequent Flyer

    MS? Is my writing really that effeminate? I know my penis is short, but I do have one.


    It's probably your shortage (*no pun intended) of over-capitalization.

    Myself, no one ever gets confused because of my extremely large... oh, forget it. Typeface is what i was going to say.

  • Rhywun||

    It is a pretty nice place to eat, with really nice decorations, woodwork, they even have metal knives and forks, real linen napkins too!

    Sounds great! So why is flying first-class only marginally better than steerage? Because planes are "mixed class". For the cost of first class, I should expect a guaranteed flight and no strip searches, in addition to the luxury on board.

    I still havent figured out from anyone what the hell corporations have ever done to anyone other than keep prices low and products widely available.

    If A + B + C is greater than the cost of a recall, then we don't do one.

  • Episiarch||

    My wife said we are not allowed to go to Michael Jordan's steakhouse. Ever. It did not appeal to her sensibilities somehow.

    I went to the one at Mohegan Sun. The food was quite good. I had tuna tar tar (I've had lots of that, and theirs was very good) and my filet mignon was excellent and basically raw--as I requested.

    Very expensive, though. Japonica expensive. Maybe even more so.

  • Kolohe||

    Go ValuJet!

    This actually still exists, they just call it Airtran now. And it does in fact keep Delta honest on many of the Atlanta to Elsewhere Eastern US routes. (or at least used to, I haven't lived ivo Hartsfield for almost 6 years now.)

  • Episiarch||

    Myself, no one ever gets confused because of my extremely large...

    Lies. We've been over this before, GILMORE.

  • GILMORE||

    Rhywun | April 16, 2008, 12:18pm | #

    If A + B + C is greater than the cost of a recall, then we don't do one.


    And thats "bad"?

    I hope you dont wear any corporate clothes. Like Gap or something.

    Me, I bought a pair of Frye boots this year, and they cost 2-3X the same thing you could get from some foreign-sourcing 'megacorp' or something. But I wanted to know that i was paying the same people who made riding boots for civil-war soldiers. Nostalgia was worth the extra dosh. Corporations dont have any corner on dick. There's always more choices.

  • Guy Montag||

    Rhywun,

    If you scroll up you might see that I was responding to that notion that all business cut as many corners as possible without pissing off too many customers. That was all I was responding to.

    Now, for the longer answer, it is a pet peeve of mine when stuff like that is tossed out there as if it were fact, when the fact is that there are plenty of businesses that pride themselves on not cutting any corners at all.

    Extending this example to the air segment of transportation, I would submit that there are plenty of charter services that provide the level of service you seem to be demanding. Perhaps you don't like the price? If that is the case, don't bother trying Morton's either and you better steer way clear of Smith & Wollinsky.

  • Guy Montag||

    GILMORE,

    I bought some LL Bean hiking boots last year. Still holding up fine, but when they wear out I can take them back for a new pair. About $100 is what I paid.

  • GILMORE||

    Episiarch | April 16, 2008, 12:22pm | #

    Myself, no one ever gets confused because of my extremely large...

    Lies. We've been over this before, GILMORE.


    Seriously. What are you looking for? A plaster cast? Testimony from last weekends one-night stand? A DNA sample? You seem pissed about it or something. Look man, I probably have other compensating shortcomings. like... well.... uh...

    Ok, maybe i just got lucky

  • ||

    I don't know about anyone else here, but ever since the government took over security at the airports, I have avoided air travel whenever possible. The crappy service I could take. The occasional late flight I could take. The fearsome food I could take. The being cooped up on the tarmac for a couple of hours I could take. But being pulled out of line, wanded thoroughly, and loudly ordered to take off my shoes in broken English by an apparently recent immigrant in a government uniform was not something I could take. (Not that I would have resented the same treatment by a native-born American any less, mind you.) The pleasure of flying on a commercial airliner decreased steadily from my first, wonderful experience with American Airlines in 1966 until my last, miserable return flight from Vegas on Southwest, three Octobers ago. My next trip to Vegas, with family, to visit family in Henderson, was a road trip. It was a long drive there and back from Santa Cruz, but I enjoyed the trip a lot better than I would have, going by air. I used to love to fly, but now, if I never fly again (except on private aircraft, perhaps), that will suit me fine.

    I wonder if enough other travelers have been sufficiently repelled by the "security" situation at airports, as to contribute to the bottom-line challenges now faced by the airlines. I'm just not going to put up with that crap anymore.

  • GILMORE||

    Guy Montag | April 16, 2008, 12:27pm | #

    GILMORE,

    I bought some LL Bean hiking boots last year. Still holding up fine, but when they wear out I can take them back for a new pair. About $100 is what I paid.


    If they're the all-leather jobbies i think they're made by Vasque. Their mixed boots (nylon, gore, pleather, etc) I think are sourced to Merrill in NH

    I was a hiking-shoe salesman in an earlier life. These were the dudes I was mentioning =

    http://www.fryeboots.com/subpages/catalog.asp?cat=WORK&sty=LOGGER&gen=2

    shitkickers

  • frequent flyer||

    I wonder if enough other travelers have been sufficiently repelled by the "security" situation at airports, as to contribute to the bottom-line challenges now faced by the airlines.

    I changed departments to avoid travel. Haven't been on an airplane in nearly 18 months.

  • Episiarch||

    I wonder if enough other travelers have been sufficiently repelled by the "security" situation at airports, as to contribute to the bottom-line challenges now faced by the airlines.

    The smaller airports aren't too bad. I fly out of Bradley or Providence when I can, because their smaller volume usually means much shorter lines.

    GILMORE, I'm surprised you don't have a problem when going through security considering the foil-wrapped cucumber in your pants.

  • GILMORE||

    LEpisiarch | April 16, 2008, 12:37pm | #

    GILMORE, I'm surprised you don't have a problem when going through security considering the foil-wrapped cucumber in your pants.


    I told you, i've been on the TSA list for a year. Maybe it was WMD-smuggling concerns or something.

    I have complained about the overly-extensive pat-downs though. It's not easy being me.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Can;t wait for the upcoming nationalization of airlines.

    AMTRAK AIR. Get ready for it.

  • ||

    I used to have to fly on a regular basis; not as much as a lot of people, but more than I wanted to. I am pleased to report that I have not been on an airplane in several years; I would rather drive two thousand miles than put up with a lot of stupid bullshit (and risk getting tasered) at an airport.

  • Rhywun||

    And thats "bad"?

    It is when your child's braces get wrapped around the gear shift.

    it is a pet peeve of mine when stuff like that is tossed out there as if it were fact

    It is a pet peeve of mine when people shoot down generally valid arguments by providing extreme, fringe counter-examples. In this case, yes, there are charter flights but they are unavailable to 99% of the population. For the rest of us mortals, a "luxury" experience at the regular airport is impossible at any price. The nature of the business (limited departure points, security, etc.) makes it so.

  • GILMORE||

    Rhywun | April 16, 2008, 1:11pm | #

    It is when your child's braces get wrapped around the gear shift.


    That reminds me of an especially painful date i had in high school

    (running away now)

  • Guy Montag||

    No, charter flights are available to at least 99% of the population willing to pay for that level of service and convenience.

    Let's use another example: public bus lines are cruddy. Private bus lines are somewhat less cruddy. Don't like the service of them? There is an alternative, like a car service, limo service, various levels of rental cars or even operating your own.

    See? Not that complicated.

    Your complaints of airline service are nothing more than complaints. If you chose the over-regulated, one-step-from-public-bus-level service of commercial airlines then don't gripe about it not being luxury level.

    When you actually do pay for luxury level service, then go ahead and complain. Some valid ones may be: the controllers held your plane so those smelly air-busses could take off first, there was not enough leg room, the hookers were ugly/wrong sex/both, they would not let you smoke weed or crack, the food was icky, no Dr. Pepper or RC, etc.

  • Peter||

    Didn't we get Jet Blue out of all this, recently scored at the top of the Airline Quality Rating, and with low prices, etc.

  • Guy Montag||

    Peter,

    And that Hooters airline too. Are they still around? Didn't they have smoking flights?

  • ||

    Wow, there's a damn lot of irrational fear/hatred of flying here.

    I'm not a massively frequent flyer, but I've got a lot of miles a few times a year for business. When it comes down to it, you end up getting where you want to go and a lot quicker than alternatives (Cleveland's March double whammy of ice and blizzard during my most recent travels notwithstanding).

    It's like some of you want free handjobs from the 40-something (and up) stewardesses (or stewards).

    Now TSA is another matter, but if you're the least bit prepared and have the good fortune of flying out of smaller airports or smaller hubs, they don't go all nasty on you and feel you up.

    I've been patted down as a matter of course departing from Schiphol, and Frankfurt though. Every time. Every person.

  • ||

    Timon,

    I *am* a massively frequent flyer, and I can tell you the hatred of flying isn't irrational in the least if you do it a lot.

    Unsurprisingly, people who don't fly all that often aren't that upset by occasional problems... but what are occasional problems on a percentage basis become quite frequent when you increase the frequency of your flying. And unfortunately, if you fly a lot for business you don't have the luxury of choosing which airports you fly out of or which hubs you frequent.

    I like United the most of any domestic carrier, but I'd take almost any international provider over even United any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Airlines seem to think that cutting their costs (and thus their service) to the bone is somehow a viable strategy for survival. The quote is right, something is wrong with the industry - and it's *not* wholly attributable to regulation.

  • Dave W.||

    is somehow a viable strategy for survival

    they aren't trying to survive. they are trying to get the best profit margin. having a lot of extra cash lying around is not a good thing in a labor intensive, unionized business like airlines. purposeful insolvency should not be confused with unprofitability.

  • Dave W.||

    Update: Skip Oliva notes via email, "The other problem that you did not state is that antitrust regulation prohibits most temporary alliances-aka "cartels"-that might make more economic sense than outright mergers.

    13th Amendment regulation also prevents Third World people from willing selling themselves to the airlines--easing these governmental contractual restrictions would help, too./sarc

  • ||

    Geoff,

    Maybe I'm lucky. When I fly international, I almost always go through Detroit (NWA) and pick up KLM in Amsterdam. Occasionally I have to endure Chicago (United) and go through Frankfurt. Etihad Airways is plenty awesome, though, if the company is forced to pick up the hefty tab for one reason or another.

    Most of my domestic stuff is straight out of Cleveland's Continental hub or Akron (super-convenient) to any major hub in the East.

    I like Continental pretty well. Delta sucks. NW trans-Atlantic is pretty good, too.

    Most of my problems have been due to weather and not some "service" issue.

  • Urkobold™||

    It's like some of you want free handjobs from the 40-something (and up) stewardesses (or stewards).


    FREE? NO, THE URKOBOLD IS WILLING TO PAY. HE IS NOT A COMMUNIST, AFTER ALL.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    MS? Is my writing really that effeminate?

    No. Jest seeing if you were paying attention AND, we have to be gender non-specific, so, with these indeterminate names, we have to go odd/even, one day it's Ms the next day it's Mr.

    See how that works? :-)

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    if I never fly again (except on private aircraft, perhaps), that will suit me fine.

    Mr Merritt, the last time Mrs TWC and I went to Vegas, we flew. Big Mistake. It took longer for a 45 minute flight than it would have to drive. Hell the que for a taxi was longer than the actual flying time.

    And the traffic on I-15 can, at times, be worse than LA on Friday afternoon. BTW, that is true Post Modernism. Bumper to Bumper traffic in the middle of the desert.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Didn't we get Jet Blue

    Mrs TWC swears by those guys. But, they only serve a limited number of destinations.

  • Federal Government||

    All right,

    I've got 15 minutes and I see Dave W has posted a response, so let's get to work:

    It's time to teach Dave W about the implications of his FDR Libertarianism

    I asked Dave about how the merger would negatively effect of trying to buy a ticket from X to Y. I will now fisk his response:

    Well, the most obvious part answer is pricing power. The more consolidated the supply side is relative to the demand side, then the more pricing power the supply side collectively has, and money-wise, the suppliers win and the customers lose. This part is so obvious it does not even bear discussion.



    Very good Dave! It seems we have something to work with. You are quite correct that a consumer will have fewer choices and will have to pay a higher price. However, please note: the airlines are losing money. This means, that the market clearing price to fill the airlines' seats is below the cost of flying people. So, we have a glut.

    Now, if you run a business indefinitely at a loss, you are in effect destroying wealth, which is very bad. So somehow the price has to rise until the trips are profitable for the supplier again. The suppliers have several choices:

    1) To come up with ingenuous ways of doing business that reduce their costs.

    2) Reduce the capacity until the market clearing price rises to a level that is profitable again.

    3) Liquidate their business.

    Now option 1 is pretty hard what with all the regulations that govern how airlines do business. The only way to do it is by merging with another airline and eliminating duplicate facilities/expenses.

    Option 2 on the other hand can be done offering reduced service, or by merging with another airline and reducing duplicate capacity.

    Teh consumers who really need to fly will still get tickets at a price they are willing to pay. The guys who only are somewhat willing to fly signaled by their unwillingness to buy anything other than a discount ticket will be less capable of flying. Yes. However, the airline owners are not the slaves of this latter class of customer.


    Let's move on to some of the more subtle (and perhaps more important) stuff.

    There is more than one way to design a plane.

    There is more than one way to do pricing.

    There is more than one way to do screening.

    There is more than one way to do customer service.

    There is more than one way to do baggage handling.

    there is more than one way to determine routes.

    Etc, etc, etc.

    The best way to optimize these variables, and the inevitable tradeoffs that must be made between them is trial and error. Even after there is enough data to optimize, there may be no single best approach (that is, set of tradeoffs) and a mixed strategy may be appropriate.



    Dave, Dave, Dave. These have nothing to do with customer service

    If airline X is not driven to come up with a new baggage handling scheme my competitive pressure, consumers aren't harmed! Why? Because a consumerbuys a ticket only if he thinks the trip is going to be worth the cost of the ticket!

    It's none of our business how efficiently the airlines do their business! The more efficient guys will charge lower prices and put the less efficient guys out of business. And, and this is important. In an industry with large capital equipment costs, when the less agile competitors are going under, their assets will be purchased by a profitable competitor in a merger.

    Get it? A merger is the free market in action where valuable assets belonging to someone who is doomed to go out of business.




    Having less competition decreases the amount and vigor of this trial and error process. It is pretty easy to see why it decreases the number of trials. More difficult to perceive is the loss in vigor. For example, even if two (and only two) companies did (for some reason) offer a service smordgasbord, the smorgasbord will tend to be less crative and varied than if the service options arose of 200 or 2,000 separate companies.

    To bring it home in the present context: I would love to see an airline say "we do less security because that is less hassles -- we dare the terrorists to try to bring one of our birds down despite the de-emphasis of security measures -- less security = less hassles" I would fly them. I bet you would, too. However, you are not going to see that happening as long as airlines are managed by oligopoly thinking as they are now.



    OK, and here is where we get to the meat of the matter. When the merged airline lays off staff, and closes facilities, what happens to those assets Dave?

    Do the laid off workers just starve off by the side of the road? Or do they go into other professions? Do they sit on welfare or do they get other jobs?

    In reality they go into other industries, where the consumer demand justifies their labor! In other words they go from where they are not needed, the airline industry, to where they are needed, albeit possibly in a lower paying job flipping burgers.

    Your mistake is a classic case of what Bastiat would call "ignoring that which is not seen".

    All of these criticisms you level about reduced vigor and the like ignore the fact that by sucking people out of more profitable ventures and keeping them in an unprofitable industry, the anti-merger folks are actually making things worse off!

    Even by your standards of maximizing some social utility, trying to prevent mergers actually makes everyone, on the aggregate worse off. In effect, you are confusing capacity with economic health. This is the same mistake old FDR made; he too focused on preventing the required contraction in certain politically important industries. The end result was not prosperity but a Depression that lasted until those policies were finally abandoned by his successor. That's why I call your economic ideas FDR Libertarianism.

    OK time's up. I must once again hit the road. It's been fun.

  • Warmongering Lunatic||

    It's perfectly possible to run an airline at a profit. The current largest commercial passenger airline (both in the U.S. and in the world as a whole, as measured in terms of passenger-miles) has posted a profit for every single one of the last 35 straight years.

    Yeah, some of that is luck, based on the fuel hedging they did in the late 1990s. And lots of people don't like Southwest. But they are big, growing, and profitable.

  • ||

    The fundamental flaw in the system is that we have a bunch of flying buses. What we need are some sort of personalized flying alternatives. Then all of the money wasted on maintaining giant air buses can be invested into flying car infrastructure.

  • Kolohe||

    That 5:39 is the best work I've seen from the federal government in quite some time :)

  • Brian||

    Delta is the best way to get between New York and Atlanta. Although EVERY airline gets delayed on that route.

  • Dave W.||

    However, please note: the airlines are losing money. . . . Yes. However, the airline owners are not the slaves of this latter class of customer.

    Naive. I don't believe any of the things. Too much media / workplace brainwashing. Here's a quarter. Etc.

    Dave, Dave, Dave. These have nothing to do with customer service. . . . doomed to go out of business.

    You are not getting my argument at all.

    OK, and here is where we get to the meat of the matter. When the merged airline lays off staff. . . . FDR Libertarianism.

    I drew an example of a way that a small upstart airline could take a "radical" customer service and marketing approach. A creative approach. A better approach. I drew this example so that you could see how it was never gonna happen under current cartel conditions, but very well might happen in a true free market, which is to say a truly competitive market. I don't see how what you are saying at this part is responsive to that.

    OK time's up. I must once again hit the road. It's been fun.

    Sort of. I wish we weren't talking past each other so much. I guess I am supposed to expect that because this is the Bob Poole inspired corporatarian blog, but really it would be funner if you engaged what I am actually saying and tried to convince me on something more closely approximating my own terms. That is supposed to be the magic of uncensored, interactive places like HnR -- you can engage, rather than just finding birds of your own feather and snarking around with them.

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