Finneran: Flying Those Friendly Skies……….

Friday, April 14, 2017
Tom Finneran, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™

United Airlines
So much for the “friendly skies” of United.

Now it’s more like combat.

The story is everywhere and the public anger is real. As it should be.

A customer gets roughed up and dragged off the plane because United Airlines cannot figure out the basics of finance. Nor are they particularly adept at customer relations. In fact, they stink at customer relations. Mealy mouth crap oozes from their executives about “regret” and “re-accommodating our passengers”. Who buys this bs anyway?

The story is simple and it is far too common. United oversold a flight and therefore had to bump passengers from the plane. That this is even allowed to occur is an indictment of federal transportation and aviation regulators. How can a business “sell” what it does not have? If the plane can seat 100 passengers, then sell 100 tickets. Don’t sell 108 or 110. Once they have been sold, you don’t have those seats available so why “sell” them again, other than as a scheme for squeezing more pennies from your bullied customers.

Airline “experts” tell us that a certain percentage of passengers do not show up for their scheduled flights, thus opening up that percentage of seats for re-sale. But the airline has already been paid for the seat I bought and if I don’t show up it’s my loss not theirs. What we have here is the airline deliberately selling the same seat twice. That might get you brownie points with punks from Wall Street but it infuriates your customers.

I can clearly recall an incident from several years ago in which I was informed that I was likely to be bumped from a flight which I had reserved and paid for months in advance. I was more than two hours early in checking in for the flight, a night flight from Florida to Boston, where I had some fairly important business the next day. My dismay turned to fury as I considered the nasty game being played upon innocent customers, forced to accept beggar’s terms from a rotten corporate management. I’ve probably flown forty or more times since that incident and, needless to say, I absolutely refuse to fly on that particular airline ever again.

By the way, USA Today reports that United Airlines made 2.3 billion dollars last year. I offer that tidbit as evidence that even complete idiots can make a buck in America. 

Here’s the deal with air travel today---

It’s expensive. It’s hostile. It’s extremely crowded. The seats are smaller than ever (and I’m a skinny guy). The food stinks. Other than , what is there to complain about?

I reserve my sympathy for a) the customers and b) the ticket agents and the flight crews. Those agents and flight crews are put in impossible circumstances, unable to exercise even basic customer relations other than “company policy” as put together by bureaucratic fools. I’ve long surmised that the airlines put female employees at the check-in counter at the gate in order to minimize the assaults which would otherwise occur. Most people remain extremely respectful of a woman who has been put into a tough position by her employer. Not so with men……….I suspect that if those check-in counters were manned by men who are constantly forced to explain why you the customer has to get screwed, that there would be a lot of brawls.

The customers of course bear the brunt of this crap. And it need not be such a repetitively tiring experience. 

Customers still marvel at the miracle of travelling across the continent in five or six hours, or of travelling from Boston to Florida in three hours and a few minutes. Customers appreciate the complex technology and science of the machinery, the skill of the pilots, and the patience of the flight staff. They understand winter weather patterns that can cause cancellations and delays. They can even tolerate the occasional mis-directed piece of luggage as an outcome of a massive logistical system.

What they should not be asked or expected to endure is deliberate and gratuitous exploitation. They pay the freight. They deserve a friendly sky. Is anyone in management listening?

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.


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