Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Grounded

Saturday, April 12, 2008


It's far too late to be blogging, at least after the week that I've had. I wanted to write about the airline industry, but my imagery skills are not at their finest at the moment, so I had to catch myself from writing about the "airline industry trainwreck." It's probably best to stick to just one mode of transportation at a time. And I should try to keep this post short and sweet.

The air travel business is not in the best shape lately. The FAA hasn't been keeping the best track of safety issues, so we're all of a sudden we've got to play a lot of catch up. It took whistleblowers to convince Congress to take a look at the issues of flight safety, but once the airlines knew they were under surveillance, they decided maybe inspections aren't the worst thing to do, after all. True enough, but when you have to inspect the whole fleet at once, you can't avoid disruption. Various airlines have had different levels of inconvenience, but American Airlines seems to have almost come to a standstill. The AP suggests that more than 3,000 flights have been canceled this week and a quarter of a million fliers have been affected. If that's the number of passengers, it caused even larger ripples among those who on the ground but somehow associated with those the travelers.

But the cancellations aren't the only problem. Frontier Airlines became the fourth airline in the past month to file for bankruptcy (ATA, Aloha Airlines, and Skybus were the other three). None of the bankrupt airlines are major players, but they function as a canary in the coal mine. Higher fuel costs added to safety concerns are causing problems all the way around.

Although this issue hasn't been entirely absent from the news, it hasn't had the high profile that I'd expect for a disruption at this level. Imagine if this had been going on in a different country, say the former Soviet Union. The press would be all over themselves to note the crumbling infrastructure and speculate on what it might've meant for the broader economy. We've got no such speculation here, of course, but that doesn't mean the situation doesn't carry the same dangers.


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