Thursday, June 05, 2008

Up, Up, and Awry

I've been following with interest the ongoing collapse of the airline industry. There are way too many articles to cite: a Google News search on "airlines" will yield quite a few.

It's sad to see airlines dying a slow death thanks to oil prices, and I don't think the methods they've taken to compensate--slashing jobs, cutting routes, jacking up fares, and slapping on various fees--are going to help much. What's worse, I believe they know it. After all, which of those stopgaps will bring any of the airlines more customers? And even Southwest, the only airline which routinely turns a profit, will feel the pinch sooner or later when its hedged purchase of lower-cost gasoline runs out.

But maybe the collapse of the airline industry may not be such a bad thing. Perhaps it will lead to a completely new way of looking at routes, especially the final death knell of the "hub and spoke" concept that Southwest and JetBlue have blown into oblivion. Perhaps it will also lead to new aeronautic innovations, better ways to harness the power of the winds aloft.

On the other hand, I fear that what will happen is, like when I was a kid, traveling by air will be something only business people do. After all, the nationwide train infrastructure is nowhere near up to the task of absorbing those who can't fly, and (oh yeah) most trains use a heck of a lot of fuel too.

From a personal perspective, I didn't fly at all except to and from England when I was a kid, and a short round-trip to Paris while in England. It was more than 20 years later when LC and I first flew out to Reno, and came back through Denver on The Flight From Hell that tried to land through a thunderstorm. Never saw rain fall UP before! Once we were married, we enjoyed watching planes land near our house, either from the house itself or from the viewing area right near Runway 33L at BWI. Scattered through the blog are other adventures that I've labeled "flying" (how cryptic!).

I've flown quite a bit since then, generally at least once a year. I enjoyed using fairly cheap fares to get to places like Cleveland, Chicago, and even LA/Orange County for various purposes. Now? I'm not even sure how we'll get out to Reno. We'd take Southwest, except they don't carry animals.


Dymphna (4HisChurch) said...

"the nationwide train infrastructure is nowhere near up to the task of absorbing those who can't fly,"

(sarcasm}But, Cyg, I thought "train travel was dead". (/sarcasm)

In spite of the fact that we are a huge country, I still think we really need a better traveling infrastructure: trains of various types and buses.

Oh, also, WHAT PLANE is that?! Really cool!

Cygnus said...

Southwest has a number of specialty aircraft honoring its various hubs, and this is Maryland One.