A Chat With the Cranky Flier

Brett Snyder is the founder and host — “Chief Airline Dork,” in his words — of Cranky Flier, one of the Web’s most popular air travel sites. Like me, Snyder grew up a jetliner buff, plane-spotting and collecting airline timetables. Though we embarked on different career paths, our affections for commercial aviation have similar roots, and both of us eventually turned our passion into a writing and blogging gig.


Q: Some background on yourself. Where did your interest in this mad business come from?

I wish I knew. For some insane reason, I started to love this business when I was a little kid. Nobody in my family was in the industry, but there I was running from terminal to terminal at LAX picking up timetables. My grandma even took me to the Sheraton Plaza La Reina (now Sheraton Gateway) at LAX for my birthday, got me a room, and let me watch airplanes all day. I ended up becoming a travel agent when I was 12, and I volunteered at Travelers Aid at LAX during high school. I’ve just always loved this industry.

Q: Give us a the history behind Cranky Flier. Why and when did you decide to start the site?

I had left United Airlines in 2005 and went to work for PriceGrabber.com. I was starting their travel search site, and we had discussion forums in every category. We were pretty small when we started, so I began to seed the discussion forums with topics. Some friends of mine saw it and told me that all this random knowledge I had would probably be interesting to others, but not in the context of a discussion forum. They pushed me to start the blog and, in August 2006 it went live.

Q: We often hear of the “golden age of air travel.” It’s my opinion this age is mostly one of myth. The obvious hassles of flying aside, air travel in 2013 is remarkably affordable, astonishingly safe, and for the most part reliable. If ever there was a “golden age” of flying, I’d say it was right now. Yet people utterly despise the experience. Never before has there been so much contempt for airlines and for flying in general (to wit, the very name of your website seems to capitalize on this sentiment). What are your thoughts on where this contempt comes from, and what the industry might do about it?

First, I think a lot of people misunderstand the name of my website. I’m not cranky about the flying experience. If I’m cranky about anything (and I am), it’s at the lack of understanding about how the airline industry works and the poor media coverage the industry receives. I agree completely about the golden age. People think of big seats with people dressed in suits eating fancy meals. But they don’t remember that the trip on that old propeller plane took forever, bouncing around in weather. And, the tickets were so expensive that very few people could afford them. Of course, if people want that experience, they can still get it in business or first class — and the seat today will be much nicer and the ride much smoother.

I think it’s very tough for the industry to combat this, but I would like to think that with fewer, smarter airlines, we’ll see more stability. More stability means, in particular, more stable jobs for employees, and that should mean happier people providing better customer service. Where people really get pissed off is when things go wrong — i.e. delays, cancellations, etc. So if the airlines can first invest more in reducing delays and cancellations (as we’ve seen with both Delta and US Airways of late), that will help. Then invest further in making service recovery easier.

Q: Many people — younger people especially — seem to feel that flying is expensive. Yet fares are about half of what they were 30 years ago. We’ve seen a small increase in average ticket prices over the past two or three years, but they’re still about 15 percent cheaper than they were in 2000. All this despite tremendous increases in the costs of fuel. How has the industry managed to pull this off?

Airlines have become much better at revenue management, and have continued to increase load factors [percentage of seats occupied] to help bring and keep fares down. The creation of a la carte pricing models has helped even more. Even with fuel prices going through the roof, airlines have become so much more efficient that prices have remained remarkably low. It’s incredible, actually, and nobody appreciates it. They just get angry. If people realize what it cost to fly back in 1970, they might be shocked. But nobody thinks that far back.

Q: Let’s talk about those a la carte “unbundling” fees for a minute. I realize that people feel nickel-and-dimed by these fees, but I’m of the mind that they’re mostly a good idea, in that people can pay for certain perks they might want, while other don’t have to, thus keeping overall fares lower for everybody. After all, these things were never “free.” They were included in the price of your ticket, and the price used to be a lot higher.

Absolutely. Look at Southwest. It often no longer has the lowest fares, and that’s because every fare includes two checked bags and the ability to change without a penalty. If I need to check two bags, Southwest will probably be cheaper. But for those of us who don’t, why would I pay the higher fare on Southwest when I could save money on another airline? I love the ability to pick and choose what I want, but I think the airlines were in such a hurry to roll it out when they were drowning in red ink in 2008 that they failed to present the idea correctly. And now they’re suffering because of how people perceive these fees.

Q: Though at some point, I suppose, the concept is bound to get sleazy. For example, carriers charging for both carry-on and checked bags. That’s gouging.

The one that really gets me is the “passenger usage charge,” or whatever those ultra low-cost carriers (for example Spirit or Allegiant) call it. The one where you pay more to book online because it’s convenient.

Q: The government has filed a lawsuit to stop the American / US Airways merger. Their case hinges on the idea of a merger meaning less competition and higher fares. But can’t we argue that fares are already artificially rock-bottom, and airlines have, to some degree, been riding on the backs of labor to keep them so low? And isn’t this merger ultimately in the best interest of the industry and passengers?

I don’t know that I’d say fares are artificially at rock bottom. I mean, sure, labor is taking a lot less of the pie today than they were before all those bankruptcies, but that was going to happen no matter what. If bankruptcy wasn’t allowed, those firms would have just failed and new airlines would have started up with the new lower wage rates. US Airways’ rates today are “artificially low” for the pilots because the pilots can’t agree on a seniority list integration, and the company is stuck between a rock and a hard place. But the merger with American should fix that, despite what others seem to think.

I do think this merger would be good for passengers and of course for the industry as well. I write a lot about this on the blog from an industry perspective, but I don’t talk about it from my perspective as a passenger… I live in Long Beach and fly from Long Beach Airport when I can. If JetBlue doesn’t fly nonstop, then I’m pretty much left with US Airways. I like flying US Airways — flights are on time usually and the experience is fine. But in the merger, I would expect that Long Beach at least keeps service and maybe grows it. I would also expect more options and amenities on the new combined carrier — things like extra legroom seats, and so on. And the new American would be able to take me to a lot more places that I can’t reach today without changing airlines. Will fares rise? Maybe, but there are a million different factors that go into fare changes that I think it would be extremely difficult to tie that specifically to this or any merger. And if fares get too high, that creates opportunity for others to come in and shake things up.

Q: Flying has changed quite a bit in the years since 9/11. What, aside from lower fares, in your opinion, has gotten better from the passenger’s perspective?

I think the most important thing that has improved is airline reliability. You see most airlines posting solid performance numbers (with a few exceptions), and that should be the most important thing. Domestically, I also point to the ubiquity of new amenities and options, such as enhanced economy seating with extra legroom. That’s great for people who want to pay more to get more. And I have to mention Wi-Fi. It’s amazing how fast a flight passes when you’re online. I just used it on American from London to LAX, and it was awesome.

Q: And what has gotten worse?

Airport security. My number one pet peeve is that stupid liquid rule. They’ve had years to come up with a less cumbersome alternative, and they’ve failed. Security in general is more annoying, but that’s the one thing that bugs me most. I also think things have gotten much worse if you fly out of a very small city. High fuel prices mean the smallest markets will suffer the most, and government programs like EAS [Essential Air Service] aren’t going to save them. It’s a shame that there isn’t a better way to make service work in small cities, but so far the options are limited. Allegiant Air has been great for some small cities, but that doesn’t connect them into the national airline system; it just gets people to a sun spot. That’s good, for sure, but I wish small cities could get greater access to the world. I don’t know how to solve that problem.

Q: Have the airlines given TSA a free ride? Why has there not been more industry opposition to a security system that is largely irrational and ineffective?

I don’t know if I’d say it’s a free ride. There are some battles worth fighting more than others, and I just don’t know if this one is winnable. There are plenty of ways to poke holes in the airport security system, but nobody is willing to put their neck out on the line and say that certain measures needs to go away. I do think the TSA under the current regime has at least made a little progress with things like Pre-Check. It’s the little victories…

Q: The growth and global ambitions of carriers like Emirates and Turkish Airlines is underscoring many of the failures of US commercial aviation. Governments overseas seem to have a much better understanding of how important commercial aviation is to their economies, while our own government seems intent on strangling the life out of the airline industry through taxes and a completely dysfunctional airport security apparatus.

Well if you think the US is bad, look at Europe. Great Britain is the worst government I can imagine in terms of supporting air travel. They view it as an environmental burden and not as the huge economic engine it is. Thanks to geography, Europe is going to lose its relevance to the Gulf carriers a lot more quickly than the US will. You already see a ton of people in smaller European cities like Birmingham or Hamburg be able to reach Africa and Asia with a single stop in Dubai. They can bypass all those European hubs, and the European carriers can do very little about it because of how unhelpful their governments are.

Q: In a recent poll, twenty percent of foreign travelers who recently visited the United States said they would not do so again due to onerous entry procedures at airports, including long processing lines. Forty-three percent said they would discourage others from visiting the United States.

I’m not surprised to hear them say that, but I’m skeptical as to how many of them will actually follow through. There are, however, a ton of people who cannot come to the US because of our visa issues, and that’s a much bigger problem. China, for instance, is a huge potential source of tourism that is hamstrung by visa and bureaucratic issues.

Q: One of the things I commonly talk about is how American airports simply do not recognize the “in transit” concept. All passengers arriving from overseas, even if they’re merely transiting to a third country, are forced to clear customs and immigration, re-check their luggage, pass through TSA screening, etc. It’s an enormous hassle that you don’t find in most places overseas, where transit passengers walk from one gate to the next with a minimum of fuss. This must cost US airlines millions of potential customers each year. Granted it’s partly an airport design issue, but why don’t carriers seem to care?

I’m not sure it’s an airline issue. I always thought it was part of the “guilty at first glance” attitude in Customs and TSA. It’s truly a shame that we can’t do a better job with transit because it would help to support many more flights to and from the US.

Q: The Asiana Airlines crash at SFO last summer was a real media circus — a gigantic story for a comparatively small-scale accident. Large-scale catastrophes have become quite rare, and it seems that people seem to have lost all sense of scale and perspective when it comes to air safety. Think about it for a minute: If that 777 had flipped over, and 250 people had been killed instead of three people, how would the media coverage have differed? I tend to think it wouldn’t have differed, which is a little disturbing.

I think you’re probably right, but at least that was an actual accident! How many times have you seen “breaking news” about an airplane that landed with its nose gear up, or even sillier, an airplane that had to return to the airport because of a mechanical issue? Nearly every time this ends without incident, but the coverage is still insane. The media definitely has an unhealthy fascination with this industry.

Q: Lastly, I can’t help asking: the new American Airlines livery?

Not a fan. I don’t like how the eagle has been marginalized, and I don’t like the big flag-waving tail. And the “silver” body is really just gray. But most aggravating to me is that I understand it’s significantly more expensive to paint this livery due to the colors and complexity. What a waste of money.



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21 Responses to “A Chat With the Cranky Flier”
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  3. Tom says:

    I’ve been an avid and appreciative reader of your blog, and before that your column at Salon.com. I also turned my father, who was once a military pilot, on to your site. He loves it and has just bought your book. I just finished reading your interview with the Cranky Flier, and I really must disagree with you about the ‘golden age’ of air travel. My dad was in the foreign service when I was growing up, and as a result I spent a lot of time flying back and forth between the US and South America. At that time it was customary (in coach) to be assisted to one’s seat by a flight attendant, to receive several full meals per flight (on china and with logo-stamped metal cutlery), to be offered chewing gum and other amenities (including, for children, airline coloring books and clip-on pilot’s wings). The flying experience was exciting, pleasurable, and always something to look forward to. I still like to fly and don’t mind paying for extra leg room and similar amenities, and I agree that lately the whole experience seems to have been streamlined and improved. But flying today bears no resemblance to that earlier experience. The magic is gone, period.

    • Gyula Bogar says:

      You can still have the same experience, as long as you are willing to pay the kind of money for the ticket, relative to average income, that you used to in the “old days”.

  4. Brent says:

    I read recently that the restrictions on liquids may be lifted partially in 2014, based on a report presented to ICAO recently: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/airlines-may-relax-rules-against-boarding-planes-with-liquids/article14514021/

    On a related note, I happened to be flying out of Heathrow with my kids literally the day after the ‘liquid-bomb plot’ was revealed in 2006: now THAT was a security nightmare you’d find it hard to top, I think. Took us eight hours to get through the lines and on to our (much-delayed) flight. Each carrying a clear plastic bag with our wallets and passports, and nothing else.

  5. Thomas says:

    I have no idea when / where the golden age was / is … but I agree with Randall that the 90`s seemed to have a fairly good balance and I believe the airlines were profitable then. As for add ons, I guess a case can be made for people paying for what they use IF the airlines did not turn it into a shake down, which it certainly feels like.

    For me, the absolutely inexcusable charge is the extra fee tacked onto changing a flight (if done within a reasonable time before flight time). I have bought the ticket after wading through the matrix, I do all of the work to change the flight through the web site, after the change the airline still gets my business (money), and there is no loss of seat – the now empty seat is back on the market. Why the charge? The airlines are always blacking out blocks of seats until advantageous to them to make available for purchase – surely their computer systems can handle such comings and goings – Asian airlines do not charge as long as your change is before 24 hours before flight time. The price gouge to buy a flexible ticket is simply that – a price gouge.

  6. Randall says:

    I have only been flying since 1983, but to me the Golden Age will always be the 1990s. Fares were comparatively low by historic standards, and the lack of the TSA meant you could show up for a domestic flight 5 or 10 minutes before departure with only carry-ons, and get on the plane.

    Re fares, how low they are now depends on where you are and where you are going, especially after all the consolidation. If either end is a “monopoly” airport (Minneapolis) with practically only one dominant airline, that airline is cheapest, but the flight is still more than to a “shared airport”, either where no one has a hub, or everyone has a hub.

  7. Mike B says:

    The fees in the UK are really hurting the market … I used to go to the UK 3-5 times/year and always wanted to transit thru LHR. No longer. I can’t afford it. The UK Government has gone insane with their taxes and fees. I hope they realize the long term consequences … BA and VS are trying hard but it is not enough to overcome the outlandish taxes/fees.

  8. Rod says:

    I live in Geneva and so I have ready access to the Easyjet network. Easyjet (a low-cost airline sneeringly dismissed as “not a low-cost airline” by Micheal O’Leary, so I guess it must be) is about as unbundled as they come and I’m continually startled by the low fares. Frankly I don’t know how they do it, how virtually all their flights (any day, no matter how unlikely the destination) are full.

    I just checked on the Easyjet site for a hypothetical example, and I can fly to Stockholm next week (with one checked-in bag and a selected seat) for about a fifth of what that would have cost me 15 years ago.

    Pay has fallen across the industry, of course. But Easyjet claims in its vacancy ads that its salaries are “competitive” (clearly unlike Ryanair).

    I agree with Sean and Alexei’s reaction to Brett Snyder’s apparently annoyed amazement at the view that aviation is “an environmental burden”. Cuz it most indubitably is. Sorry about that — just the truth.

  9. Hope says:

    As a woman in my mid-30s who travels several times a year, here are my 2 cents about flying these days:
    While fares may technically have decreased overall, I know I am paying more every time I fly than I did 10 years ago when I first started paying for my own flights. I would love to have more legroom, but I simply can’t afford to most of the time – it is all I can do to afford the ticket in the first place, especially now that I am traveling with a small child and usually have to buy an extra seat and check at least one bag.

    I live in a small market (Little Rock) and have very few options when it comes to choosing which airline to use when visiting family in Seattle. The prices are higher because there are now fewer airlines serving our airport, thanks to various mergers, and there are limited options for flight times and routes. Everything about choosing flights has gotten more difficult – do I want a 45 minute layover where I am likely to miss my connection (often the only one of the day) if my original flight is even 5 minutes late but saves me $50, or do I want a 3 hour layover that means it takes me 12 hours to get home (and often means I have to get up at 4 AM for the flight)? Do I want to risk flying through Denver in December, or Houston in hurricane season or Dallas in tornado season?

    I used to love flying when I was a child, but these days it has become a sort of purgatory to get through. I’d say that apart from the hassle of the logistics, the main reason for this is not the security theater (although that can definitely be annoying) or the airline staff – most of the time they are helpful and polite, if harried – but my fellow passengers. The business travelers are often pushy and arrogant, while more casual travelers are often oblivious to their fellow travelers and the staff. By now, everyone who has flown in the past 10 years should know what size luggage is allowed on planes, and what will fit in overhead bins. Everyone should know what to do at security. Everyone should know how to queue up to get on and off the plane, and how to get to their seats without taking forever. But they don’t. They think the rules (of physics) should be bent for their overly large roll-on or their two extra “personal items”, that they don’t have to put away their devices, that it is perfectly OK to squash the person behind them with their seat backs. Find a way to make people more considerate while traveling, and then it might be enjoyable again.

  10. Breadbaker says:

    The “in transit” issue is not limited to the United States.

    Three examples, one far more egregious than the other.

    Flying from Boston to Rome via Dublin, we had to go through EU security in Dublin that included having our passports checked at both ends of a corridor from which there was no exit. Were they afraid we were switching passports in the corridor?

    Flying from Seattle to Vienna via Frankfurt, I had to go through security in Frankfurt and the can of pop I’d bought in SeaTac had to be discarded.

    Flying from Auckland to Seattle via Vancouver, we had to go through the full panoply of Canadian customs, and then the full panoply of US customs, as well as security, all to board a 30 minute flight on a Horizon cigar. It took about four hours before we could sit down. If I had to do it again, I’d simply leave the airport and take the Bolt Bus down to Seattle.

    • freqflyer says:

      Breadbaker, when you arrived in Dublin and Frankfurt you entered the European Union. Once inside the EU, all flights are like USA domestic flights – no passport control or customs.

      As for international transit in the USA, it would require major changes inside every affected airport: there would have to be a completely segregated international terminal. Today if you leave the USA on an international flight, you show your passport at checkin but the gate is right next to a domestic departure. \

      Airports in Europe and elsewhere require you to go thru departure passport control meaning that you have officially left that country. You enter a terminal with nothing but international departures. If you need to go back into the terminal you would have to re-clear passport control and customs.

      Use LHR as an example. The UK has a record of your arrival. Now it has a record of your departure. If someone is arriving at LHR to connect with another international flight, they do not have to clear UK passport control or customs [they will go thru another security check]

      No US airport has a US gov’t departure passport check. There are no segregated international areas. So all incoming and transiting passengers have to clear immigration and customs to connect to their next flight no matter where they’re going. It’s a rotten way to do business but we seem to be stuck with it

    • maxe says:

      The experiences you had in London and in Frankfurt has to do with the set-up of the European Union. You came from outside the so-called “Schengen Zone”. This means that you need to enter the EU at the first entry point. If afterwords you travel to another Schengen country, and most EU countries are within it, there are no further checks – just like flying from US State to US State, after you have entered the US. To note, even the Brits, who are NOT in the Schengen Zone, have to clear customs at the first entry into one of those countries. So you are quite mistaken there. Did the no fuss exit in Rome not tell you something? As far as Vancouver is concerned, I live there, and for many years now, you can connect directly from a foreign country to the US, which, for us, is a very foreign country indeed. Perhaps you missed the attendend and the sighns that direct you from your arrival gate directly to the US pre-clearance area. Sorry, mistaken again. But, nowadays, together with the mindless media, that is how it works nowadays. Not the slightest idea, but a comment.

  11. Barry Gold says:

    I remember when flying was fun. My first air travel was in 1966. I was flying standby and was the next-to-last person to get on; it was a very crowded flight. But it was an adventure and I enjoyed it.

    Then came the 70s and widebodies. With fairly small load factors by today’s standards. But that mean lots of room on the plane, a much more comfortable experience than today’s air travel. Yes, the fares were high by today’s standards. I think my standby fare on that 1966 trip was around $200, probably equivalent to $1500 or more today. But you got cheerful cabin attendants who had enough sleep to function. And a couple of bags, a carry-on, seat selection, and halfway decent meals were included in that fare.

    Over the years, planes got more crowded. Okay, I’m fairly well-off, my wife and I bought three seats for the two of us. That took care of the side-to-side crowding. But nothing can fix the tiny “pitch” now found on most airlines.

    One co-worker compared modern air-travel to being stuck in a Greyhound bus for 4-5 hours. Really, would you pay those fares to sit in a Greyhound seat for that long?

    Southwest might be tempting, but I left “running for classes” back in my college days, thank you. And their seating system makes buying a third seat completely useless. So thanks, but no thanks.

    But the real killer: By 2006 I had mostly given up air travel because of the TSA hassles. But I was invited to be Music Guest of Honor at a convention — free airfare and hotel room and a couple of meals thrown in. So we went. The trip there was no worse than any other airline trip.

    Then came the return trip. The plane arrived late, so the turnaround was rushed. Somehow, the minor task of pumping out the waste tanks got neglected. Thirty minutes after departure, the toilets in the rear stopped working. Then the ones in mid-cabin. The last four hours of the trip, they were allowing one person at a time into First Class to use the one working lavatory there. And the smell permeated the plane.

    I haven’t gone anywhere by air since then. I live in California, and there’s a lot of beautiful scenery, good restaurants, and cultural stuff within 1-2 days drive. So if I can’t drive to it, I don’t go. Yes, it means I’ll never see Japan or Europe again, or even NYC, Boston, or Washington DC. Never visit China or Australia. But there’s plenty to see and do right here in the southwest.

    So, until the airlines start treating the passengers like people instead of cattle, I’m not flying. Period. It would help if the TSA would take a page from El Al, and figure out what actually makes flying safer instead of just “security theater” that _looks_ like you’re doing something. And maybe hire smart people to do the screening instead of minimum wage high-school dropouts.

    But the real problem is the airlines and their attitude toward passengers. Fix that, and I might consider flying again. Probably five years after I start buying cookware that’s made in China…

  12. France says:

    You both are surprised that people hate the airlines and flying so much, especially since fares are lower, flights more reliable, etc, etc. I’ve always loved to fly and been interested in the industry, and I won’t dispute your claim that fares are lower today. However, I’ve been flying since the early 70s, and I didn’t have any money back then, and what I did get for the price of a ticket was wider seats, more legroom, meals (!), and an overall better flying experience…all for the price of a ticket. I just don’t remember feeling that air travel was an unaffordable luxury. Now all those things are gone, or worse…and, we have to pay extra for the things that are left. I just think its bad marketing. What if you’d paid for a room at a hotel, and then had to pay extra to bring in your luggage, take a shower, or watch the TV…especially if all those things used to be included in the room price? I for one, wish the airlines would just charge me what it costs for them to take me from point A to point B, and throw the basics back in.

    • Lee says:

      I agree with you. Brett and Patrick would do well to not tell unhappy passengers how they ought to feel based on logical arguments. How we feel is how we feel, and we don’t like the flying experience as we used to. It’s easy to blame TSA but they have little to do with it. I don’t screw with them and they don’t bother me. Most of them seem like very nice low-paid people doing their jobs and if once in a while you get a whacky one you just ask for his supervisor, no big deal. What really sours the experience is airline staff that treat you like crap, which makes me feel bad, and then if there’s a delay or a cancellation and they continue to treat me like crap to the point that I’m either sleeping in a chair at the airport or paying a huge sum for an airport hotel room, then I wish I hadn’t decided to fly at all. Being alone and flying to strange cities can be lonely, and feeling like the airline couldn’t care less about me is a miserable way to feel. Brett and Patrick can tell me all day how cheap tickets are but when two people fly with one bag each and that adds $100 to the trip, it does feel expensive.

      • James says:

        Some thoughts on the “Golden Age:” Where you talk about the benefits of unbundled prices, most consumers see hidden charges. That’s a real problem. Perhaps savvy travelers will know to bring an extra $100 for their carry-on bag on a Spirit flight, but a less experienced traveler who bought a ticket through a third party web site on a code-shared flight, who initially attempted to check in at the counter of the airline he or she thought he was flying… well, getting hit with these unexpected fees by that time is infuriating.

        Then, there is the business traveler, squeezed for the low fares by a corporate policy, needing to pay out of pocket for various expenses and not knowing if they’ll meet the company policy…

        As for mergers — I used to fly between SFO and EWR regularly. Continental and United used to compete. They kept fares low, by competing. I’d get that business-first ticket on Continental for just under $1000, on a good day. Shortly after the merger, coach was about $750, and the business-first jumped to over $3000. Tell me about the benefits of the merger again? (Now that Virgin America flies that route, coach fares are reasonable. And I fly into PHL and take a short train ride to New York.)

        And, speaking of trains — short hop flights don’t really make that much sense, anyway. Maybe as a connection at the end of a long haul, but after using trains in Europe, it amazes me how foolish we were in dismantling a functional rail system in the 1950’s instead of building on it. Medium distance high speed rail, like Acela in the northeast, or high speed trains in Europe, transport many more people than Embraer jets, from downtown to downtown, and including time getting to and from airports, checkin, security, they are faster than flying. We should have built our trains to connect to our airports and integrate the systems.

      • Don Murray says:

        We just flew back from Maui to SFO. The heat and humidity was very oppressive while we were in a long line for security. When my wife commented on this, the TSA person (who sympathized with us since she was under the same conditions all day!) suggested we talk with a supervisor. We went to the location she suggested, but no one was there. However another TSA person accepted our request to talk to a manager and he soon came to us. He explained TSA had no ability to change conditions since it was a state of Hawaii jurisdiction. In their meetings, they had decided to build garages, update bathrooms rather than install air conditioning. The TSA manager suggested we respond to customer service issues such as these to give TSA more backing for improvements like this.

  13. Alexei says:

    Absolutely agree with Sean. It is not serious to dismiss a government for “view[ing aviation] as an environmental burden” when plainly that is exactly what it is. And the interviewee needs to get up to date. The current UK government is being criticized for unthinkingly favoring new airports even though the economic case is not at all solid.

  14. Sean S. says:

    I’m not especially keen to the idea that the airline industry somehow deserves any more or less scrutiny than other transit modes when it comes to environmental impacts. And I say that as someone who owns both of Patrick’s books and have been obssessed about airlines ever since getting a Delta flight pin as a kid.

    The reality is that airlines and airports are fighting a losing battle, and frankly wasting time, if they think they’re going to escape the oncoming environmental regulations and climate emissions stuff. So the question before you as an airport planner and upper management of an airline is; how do I get ahead of the curve on this stuff? If I have NIMBY issues, how do I get investment from the community or minimize noise/visual/pollution issues such that I have buy in? If I’m an airline, what technology can I invest in to save fuel or minimize impacts of my planes or minimizes noise?

  15. NB says:

    When you talk of government interference, you talk of the British government being far worse that the US government, and I’m sure you are right. However, both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are formidable competitors to US airlines, and arguably provide better service in each cabin across the Atlantic than US airlines (they certainly seem to punch well above their weight in terms of capacity and the ability to earn revenue). So I’m not sure your example bears out the suggestion that it’s government interference that is the principal determinant of success for airlines.