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A year after United's public-relations disaster

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Sir Alex is gone long live Sir Alex

"One of the security officers, who was fired after the event, is suing the city's airport authority, claiming he hadn't been adequately trained"

This beggars belief - are human beings so stupid that they need to be trained not to drag a defenceless old man posing no threat of harm off a plane?

Kremilek2

It seems that the current status of United only confirms that bad advertisment is also an advertisment. But I guess that a lesson has been learned. Long term consequences of such an incident aren't easy to quantify.

Duckdodger

We the passengers aren’t to blame when our experience tells us that all US airlines are the same. In Canada, Westjet doesn’t overbook, Air Canada does, overall experience is different between the two carriers leading some to be willing to pay a premium to fly Westjet.

ShaqFu

Hard for consumers to vote with their wallets when there’s no competition.

Wunala Dreaming in reply to ShaqFu

Excellent point.

It would be interesting to compare the number of major carriers (say, based on market share of total passenger-km flown) in 2018 to just before deregulation forty years ago. While Southwest, Frontier, Spirit, and JetBlue are doing well as newer-entrants (though SW has been around for 45 years...), we have lost Northwest, US, Continental, AmericaWest, Virgin, just off the top of my head. That's to mergers only - if we include bankruptcies, we can add Pan Am, TWA, Eastern and Braniff. That is a lot of wings and gates that have been "rationalised" out of competition.

10 years ago, Cleveland, Memphis and, to a lesser extent, St Louis were fully-fledged hubs. One only needs to look back at the year 2000 to see places such as Pittsburgh and Kansas City running bundles of flights, and Dallas as a battleground between AA and DL. How the mighty have fallen.

We know what the deal is with airlines: barriers to entry are intimidating, running costs are (thankfully, for a labour- and capital-intensive industry that ostentatiously places safety on a pedestal) high, business cycles hit disproportionately hard, and customers are both demanding and stingy. The less said about the volatility of fuel prices (+/- 30-35% of operating costs), the better. Not exactly a recipe for healthy, sustained margins. That, in turn, makes it hard to invest in human capital, fancy new planes, and more comfortable cabins across the length of the fuselage.

Not sure what the way forward is (if I were, I'd be a millionaire industry consultant) - maybe technology will allow some niche operators to offer fancy supersonic/premium-only products without the staggering costs up-until-now associated with such formulae. In the meantime, we should be ready for some more unpleasantness.

Tom Meadowcroft

I've had the choice of United or somebody else 3 times in the past 3 months, and have chosen somebody else each time, mostly Delta. Avoiding United is high on my list of priorities when choosing a flight. I'd put my price to fly United rather than an alternate at about $100.

WT Economist

Meanwhile, Amtrak is running full and unable to expand due to federal disinvestment.
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If it were a private company it's costs would be somewhat lower (not as much as one might expect) and it would be expanding. Eventually, private companies are going to start sniffing around for a business opportunity.

Wunala Dreaming in reply to WT Economist

Yeah, but that's just Euro-socialist godless effete greeny elitism. A real American must choose the comfort of a (poorly) pressurised cabin at 12% humidity, cramped on a glorified stool right up his neighbour's armpits, and deal with the unpredictability of the weather system to travel 500 km. After having spent 30 minutes getting to the *airport*, and another hour getting from there to the *plane*.

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What next? Public transport??