The dramatic expansion of the search for a missing Malaysian airliner suggests the plane flew thousands of miles off course, crossing — apparently undetected — a sensitive region bristling with military radar. Aviation experts on Friday queried the…
(Ed. Note) What is ADS-B?: ADS-B makes flying significantly safer for the aviation community. When using this system both pilots and controllers will see the same radar picture. With past systems such as the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) aircraft could only see other aircraft equipped with the same technology. With ADS-B, information is sent to aircraft using ADS-B In, which displays all aircraft in the area, even those not equipped with ADS-B technology. Source: Wikipeida
Sagetech ADS-B Technology Selected for NextGen Satellite Constellation (via redOrbit)
A revolutionary advancement in air traffic management that will be hosted on Iridium’s second-generation satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT. Hood River, Oregon USA (PRWEB) August 16, 2012 Sagetech Corporation has won a subcontract by Harris Corporation, an international communications company…
Three jets ‘in near miss’ at Washington DC airport (via AFP)
Three US commuter jets were involved in a near miss two days ago at Reagan National Airport after a mix up by air traffic controllers, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed Thursday. Early indications showed that two outbound planes came within 500 and 600 feet (150 and 180 metres) respectively…
The Sun Sentinel reports (here) the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation that shows U.S. airlines tallied over $1.45B in passenger baggage and change fees…in the first three months of 2012! Delta was the number one fee collector, followed by: United, American, US Airways, and Spirit. What’s interesting is that Southwest Airlines which touts no bag fees (and did place last) still managed to take in $7.7 million. Yes, airlines make a fortune on airline fees, but is it not even a little bit justifiable?
Putting It In Perspective
This is a lot of money. But is it truly unjustified? It seems that the default answer among travellers is “of course it is!’ The Sun Sentinel above even has a section devoted to it (http://databases.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/ftlaudairlinefees/ftlaudairfees_list.php) as a ‘watch dog’ type of service where the fees are listed.
While the general public may be unhappy about fees, the margins on airline profit over the past three years have been razor thin (most were not profitable for the majority of the past 10 years), with an average net profit of just 3%.
So it seems that the entire profit margin of an average U.S. airline (excluding Southwest) comes mostly from fees. Meanwhile, the public still expects the airlines to have a perfect safety record, luxurious new planes (with lots of room), be always on time, have in-flight service, and then still have incredibly low fares.
So where does an airline give? Perhaps the fees look high, but if they make up the bulk of an airline’s low profit, would you want it any other way?
Like brain surgery, I would NOT want a cut-rate surgeon who offered incredible discounts to do an operation when my life was in the balance. Airlines also have our lives in the balance (for some reason most people seem to overlook this), yet we are perfectly happy to low-ball and discount airlines at our personal convenience.
Now one might argue (correctly) that a consumer wouldn’t ‘elect’ to have brain surgery, but one can easily opt out of flying. That would put the onus on airlines to be competitive. But in either case, you’d still expect high quality without cut corners. When you’ve already made the decision and you’re in the moment, whether your cranium is cut open on a table, or your butt is 38,000 feet above the earth (over 7 miles) and moving over 500mph, each situation would seem rather similar.
Alternative Courses of Treatment
Airlines have obviously incorporated these fees because they can. It seems that the market voted loudly that high fares are despised while high fees are tolerated (people still fly and the market is even growing). So the airlines will continue. And if fees help contribute to the expectations that passengers have by providing ‘services’ like safety, then what’s the complaint? Sure, fees should not approach usurious levels, but if they did what would happen? The total price would be prohibitive and people would stop flying.
There are, of course, alternative models: 1) people stop paying higher fares and higher fees and fly less, causing more of the airlines to merge or go bankrupt. That would create less competition, and allow the surviving companies to raise their prices; or 2) we go back to regulated airlines where the government plays a big role (meaning even more tax dollars are used).
There is a third option: airlines could start getting into other areas of business that are more profitable or help them cut costs in some way. And that’s happened. Delta bought an oil refinery from ConocoPhillips. Hopefully that’s not a distraction to them from their core business of flying people around safely. We shall see…
Either way, some price, somewhere, would go up. In the first case it would be fares, in the second it would be more government imposed fees (or taxes). And while the government plays a vital role currently by subsidizing expensive (and necessary) public services like air traffic control (no private company owns the airspace), I don’t think anyone wants to see them running an airline.
A story out by the Associated Press, says the 2012 Reno Air Races are still on after a few changes were recommended. That’s great. I had been hoping that the event would continue, and given that the organization has been optimistically going full throttle on their website for many months now (it’s quite shn-azzy) I had a feeling it might go ahead. But I can’t say I was always 100% confident that it would happen again this year (if at all), and to some degree, I wouldn’t have blamed the license issuers if they declined it. Why? Because, (and this purely my opinion), the reason for the crash last year was almost certainly due to stupidity.