Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It’s Getting Old



Real old. Real fast. Maybe I’m just getting old. Or maybe I’m just moving on. But I get so tired of hearing the same old tune. The fact that it’s a new singer doesn’t make the song any better.

This is actually a pretty good article from The Dallas Morning News. Just because the players are singing the same tune doesn’t mean that the reporters aren’t doing their job. See if you recognize this tune.

“Our aircraft use 19 billion pounds of kerosene annually,” said Babbitt, a former airline pilot, consultant and head of the Air Line Pilots Association. “NextGen can save 5 percent — that’s a billion gallons of fuel and at $2 a gallon, it’s $2 billion worth a savings a year.”

For some reason, the fact that Randy Babbitt is supposedly one of “us” (an ex-union guy) doesn’t make it sound any sweeter. I don’t want to cost the airlines extra money nor do I want them to burn extra fuel, but “saving” them fuel doesn’t work. Seriously. All these direct routes. All the “flow control”. All the whining and complaining. What has it done for the industry? Absolutely nothing. They still lose money. Their service is still deteriorating. And they don’t even provide decent jobs anymore.

Delta Airlines lost $1.2 billion last year. “Saving” them $2 billion over 10 years (which isn’t going to happen anyway) won’t “save” anybody.

Really, it doesn’t even make sense. (This is where the good reporting comes in.)

”Getting all the gear on planes could cost $7 billion, and the FAA is weighing possible loan plans or incentives to get airlines on board, he said.“

We’re going to spend $7 billion to “save” $2 billion? Even if it made the airplanes run on time (and it won’t) it wouldn’t be worth it. Well, except to the avionics manufacturers, of course. The ones selling “the gear”.

Here’s my favorite:

”Air delays have fallen sharply over last year, though Babbitt and airline watchers credit reduced flying by airlines for most of the gains.”

Big “duh”, huh? Why isn’t that considered “saving” the airlines fuel?

There’s even some humor.

”Babbitt also scolded airlines for scheduling too many flights at the nation’s busiest airports. “The FAA is not going to become the scapegoat on those types of delays,” he said, noting that pilots of delayed flights often blame air traffic control when they should be blaming their own schedulers.“

“Scolded”? That’s rich. What’s he going to do, audit cockpit voice recorders to catch pilots blaming controllers for scheduling delays? I’ve got a better idea. Instead of “scolding” people (and treating the public like they’re idiots) why don’t you regulate them? That way we can “save” the airlines some fuel, make the airplanes run on time, have the airlines turn a profit and create some decent paying jobs again.

”Babbitt said his staff is using published airline schedules to build models that show where delays are likely to happen in order to approach carriers to try to talk them out of such over-scheduling.”

I find it very interesting that an airline pilot -- a union guy -- is singing the same song all his predecessors sang. “Talk” instead of regulate. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Upper Branch Mine. Wall Street. How many regulatory-failures-leading-to-disasters do we have to have before you get The Flick, Randy?

The Great Recession won’t last forever. Then everybody will go back to flying with all of them trying to fly to the same 20-30 airports. We have the time to fix this. We have the opportunity to implement a regulatory system that will make this industry great again while serving the Public well.

Try a new tune, Randy. This one is getting old.

Don Brown
May 18, 2010

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