Tales from the runway

The airline industry is in meltdown. No news there, as many people who have tried to get from Point A to Point B in the same day can attest.

The big story at the moment is the stranded passengers of American Airlines, which has grounded a thousand flights to check where a tie-wrap was used on some wiring in the wheel-well.

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No question about it, being stranded in an airport — especially if you have kids — stinks, made worse by the fact nobody ever seems to have an answer, or a good explanation for the why or when questions.

Expect it to get worse in Minneapolis-St. Paul, according to the government, which issued a warning on Wednesday that Northwest has scheduled dozens of flights to take off at about the same time (see report).

Northwest, according to the Star Tribune, “did not respond to a request for comment,” taking a page from the American Airlines playbook.

By summer, those planes will likely have Delta’s colors, news reports suggest. With or without the agreement of Northwest pilots, the two airlines appear ready to go ahead and merge, which still won’t allow two airplanes to take off from the same runway at the same time, of course. It will also create an odd experience for travelers, who’ll get to cross picket lines of pilots from one airline, picketing the pilots of another airline.

Why would anyone want to work in this business? That’s a question, perhaps, for Jason Captain, who started training last month at a Northwest subsidiary, after giving up a pretty fair government gig, the New York Times reported today. “My wife thinks I’m nuts,” said the 32 year old.

Being an airline pilot was once a respected and admirable position. Now it’s the same as driving a bus. We used to dress up to take an airline flight, now we’re passengers at Greyhound. How’d we get here? Blogger Dave Gamble, an occasional visitor to News Cut, has an interesting perspective today. We got here because more of us were allowed the means to fly in the first place:


Efficiency is nice for the common consumer – consider Wal-Mart – but it doesn’t make for the most enjoyable experience. Not to out myself as an elitist bastard, but I like to compare a trip to Wal-Mart with what it must be like to spend a couple of hours back stage on The Maury Show (in furtherance of my analogy, according to the Maury web site today’s topic is “I Had Sex With Your Sister and Got Her Pregnant” – who wouldn’t want to rub elbows with those folks), and that crowd is now routinely enjoying airline travel.

It might not be a bad time to invest in a roadside motel. This long-distance-travel-by-car thing might just take off.

Summer travel season is coming, what poison are you picking?