I don’t hate the employees of USAirways, just the company itself. It is the epitome of all that has gone wrong with American capitalism. It is a company that systematically degrades the quality of its product while constantly increasing the cost for it. It is a company that treats customers the same way it treats their luggage.
The company is posting record profits — up about 90 percent after merging with American Airlines in 2013. That’s a function of two things: reduced competition on more than 1,600 routes, and dramatically lower fuel costs. The guy who runs USAirways/American makes about $20 million a year.
You’d think windfall profits might allow slight improvements in customer service. If you do think that, you should get your head out of your ass. On a recent flight out to Vegas, and then back a week later, I experienced what has become the depressing standard in U.S. air travel: every flight delayed or canceled, every connection missed, far more time at the gate than in the air, and finally the airline’s total indifference to its customers’ comfort.
I won’t bore you with the details; you’ve probably got worse stories of your own, involving any airline in the country. Let’s just say USAirways owes me for one night in a smoke-fouled LaQuinta in Charlotte. No doubt the check is in the mail.
How did we let it get to this point, where a Greyhound bus offers a more elegant experience than a Boeing 737? I don’t know. The product gets crappier and the price keeps rising and the airlines say demand has never been higher.
You sit at a Starbucks on the C Concourse and watch the thousands tow their luggage past and you wonder where they’re all going. You wonder why they’re hurrying, since its USAirways and that means their connecting flight is either long delayed or long departed. At the airline’s customer service counter, there will be two people will working a line 50 yards long. No eye contact, just steady typing on those goddamned terminals. I don’t know why more fistfights don’t break out.
This is what happens when mergers happen and monopolies coalesce: Companies get a free hand to screw their customers. Where flying is concerned, we’re running out of choices. All I know is that if the only choice is USAirways, I’ll choose not to fly at all.