Monday Insight – June 5, 2023

Five Widely-Circulating Airline Myths

With all the fake news about airlines and air service, the general public is getting led down the path of total confusion.

One example was the confusion running wild in the recent press tag-team match on airlines performed by Buttigieg and Biden. It’s important that the DOT monitor airline service, but concocting “outrages” that simply are not true is not the right approach.

Here are five misconceptions making the rounds.

Airline Seats Are Getting Smaller

In the din about how the FAA “must” regulate airline seating, one common theme is that airline seat width has continually been reduced at US airlines. One clown actually claimed it’s down two inches in recent years. CNN published a no-facts graph of how it’s gone from an average of 18 inches down to just over 16. NBC Today Show pronounced that the average seat today is 16 inches.

That is all flat untrue, but it is a staple in most of the rantings against airlines regularly put out by consumerist jihadists who are not too concerned with the truth. In USA airline service the narrowest economy seats are generally 17.1″ or a bit larger on 737s, 767s, 777s, etc. Been that way since the first 707 in 1958.

Since that time, the A320 platform has come along with 18+” seats, and then the E170/175/190 series with seats even slightly larger. No US airline has cut width by 2 inches. That, again, is a lie. Toss in the new A220s, with seats approaching 19 inches, and the whole trendy nonsense about shrinking seat width starts to define the credibility of these clowns and the media sources that just parrot them.

The Pilot Shortage Has Decimated Small Community Air Service

Not as such. It’s more about what pilots are and will be flying in the future.

The changes in airline economics have done the number to service at a lot of local small community airports. Fifty-seat jets are getting older and more costly, and with the much higher compensation being paid to flight  crews at (misnamed) “regional airlines,” the situation gets worse.

Delta and United have made clear they will be shortly out of the 50-seat game. The next step up are CRJ-700s, CRJ-900s, and E170/175s. But there are no more of these coming into fleets, which means that replacement flying is not in the cards

American recently got press announcing they have 150 small jets parked waiting for pilots. That would have to mean 50-seaters, as there are no large numbers of CRJ-700/900s or E170/175s parked. A bit confusing in that AA separately announced that the last 50-seaters are being retired from wholly-owned Envoy.

Airlines Had Policies To Charge Families To Sit Together

That’s great trendy woke dogma. But as stated it is a lie.

The truth is that some airlines, in addition to having a premium legroom area, additionally tack “choice” fees on to some portion of the regular economy cabin, with the contention mostly that they were worth more because they were close to the front. Seats are no different, legroom the same, but somehow airlines came up with the cockamamie idea that paying $30-$50 just to save three or four minutes to get off an airplane was a super consumer upgrade.

It’s their product, and they can charge as they see fit, regardless. But when a family booked, it was possible that there were no adjacent seats in the regular economy section, and the choices were only in the “choice seating” area. This gave politicians license and the subterfuge to claim airlines gouged families.

A great narrative. But false.

Airlines Charge For Seat Selection

This past week, USA Today – sometimes not too concerned with hard facts – carried a story from some consumerist gadfly stating categorically that all airlines charge extra when passengers want to select a seat in advance.

Yup, in regard to the vapor-value “choice seats” (or “preferred,” which in itself implies something dreamed up), that is true. But the consumerist was adamant that all airlines charge for all seats.

Caveat reader. Or, don’t read it at all.

It’s A Global Consulting Firm. Only Top Grads Get In. So Take Their Advice.

Just came across an article from one of those giant consulting firms that laud themselves for only hiring the best and brightest right out of prestigious B-schools. Then they sic them on airlines, when the only industry experience they have was couple of brainstorming sessions about a subject matter of which they don’t know diddly.

The following are from the firm’s airline consulting department:

Many airlines have check-in agents vet carry-on bags and place “carry-on approved” tags on them. This, the firm implies, delays and extends boarding.

Don’t know what country this is from, but the “many” airlines in the USA do no such thing. Expert advice, eh?

Cabin preparation before boarding. According to these experts, airlines require flight attendants or cabin cleaners to cross and buckle seat belts before passengers get on. The whiz kids warn airlines that: The direct cost is not the only problem: passengers must undo the seat belt to sit down, which may add time to the boarding process.

They do? It does? Great advice for airlines to avoid what they aren’t doing in the first place. The real direct cost would be paying these amateurs for advice.

Your airline’s standard turnaround process probably includes the full cleaning of aircraft, the onboarding of catering supplies, and preboarding for elite passengers. The implication is that this naturally extends the ground time when flights arrive late to the gate.

‘Course these self-appointed shamans from academia and the low-oxygen air of ivory tower consulting have no understanding that these functions can and do take place as other necessary and critical parts of the turn are accomplished. Like unloading luggage. Loading luggage. Fueling. Cargo handling, etc.

Obviously there is zero knowledge of real-world airport and airline operations. But, well, this is the global A-team, don’t ya know.

What is amazing is that experienced airline management and boards of directors look at consultants like these as magic gurus.

Actually, several years ago, New Orleans had an in-depth strategic study accomplished for its air service future. The conclusions were that MSY needed to again be a LatAm hub (it never was in the first place), needed to recapture all the leakage going to nearby airports like Gulfport (any high school kid hanging out at would know better), and that  Baton Rouge, just up the road, had service from more airlines than MSY. (Unfortunately, they didn’t know how to read the T-100.)

But they got paid. And the community, believed this pablum. But the name was the value the client was looking for, along with a Messiah to lead them out of the wilderness. Instead they got tossed into the weeds.