The last of the major airlines to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy, American Airlines is reportedly http://nyti.ms/yKLPAc on Delta Air Lines/TPG Capital’s radar for acquisition. In case you are not aware Delta Airlines is now the world’s largest airline. US Airways is also considering a bid. What I first thought was ‘how far the mighty have fallen’.
I was never a huge fan of American Airlines but that’s mainly because I had a few bad experiences a number of years ago that made my shy away from them whenever possible. Today that’s an impractical approach to air travel as trying to avoid an airline only serves to offer the customer fewer options and likely higher prices.
Flying commercial airlines in the U.S. today is akin to getting on a bus or train. Few airlines distinguish themselves and if you are flying economy they all appear to be the same to me. Remember Jet Blue and their original appeal? Leather seats, individual Direct TV in your seat and snacks that were a bit different than other airlines. Jet Blue also tried to be fun with glib flight attendants and pilots. Today Jet Blue (to me) is pretty much just another airline. The leather seats are nice but wearing a bit. The Direct TV thing is pretty good but I’ve been on flights where my individual screen did not work.
Is there any domestic airline that distinguishes itself? Virgin America has made a concerted effort although their fares are notably higher than the competition. Since the airlines have decided to make air travel akin to mass transit it’s a game where the lowest fare wins and damn everything else. In fact I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed that most (not all) flight attendants seem to just be going through the motions and look like they’d rather be someplace else. The airlines constant labor disputes and troubles have taken away flight attendant’s smiles.
There are a host of well-known and not so well-known aggregators and an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal highlighted the craziness when it comes to fare shopping – http://on.wsj.com/xJ9qdQ. Also this week in a response to sites like Kayak, Priceline and Travelocity, the several airlines introduced a collective fare buying platform of their own that will launch later this year. This is in response to the airlines dissatisfaction with the aggregators taking too large a portion of the airfares for the airlines’ liking.
The race to offer the lowest price with the least amount of service appears sure to continue.
If you have a favorite airline is it only because of the ability to stockpile miles and rewards? Or do you really have a favorite airline because you perceive that airline to be better?