The older I get, the more irony I find in my day-to-day activity. This morning, I picked up a copy of USA Today in the terminal to read on my flight. I boarded the plane, got comfortable in my seat and started reading prior to take off.
There, in the center of the front page, above the fold, was a photo of a large U.S. passenger plane taking off into the wild blue yonder. Directly below the photo, in very large, bold red print, was the number 65,000! The headline under that impressive number read: “U.S flights with maintenance problems have taken off anyway.” Now that’s a confidence-building statement, isn’t it?
Here’s where the irony sets in. I’m buckled into my seat on a plane that very much resembles the one I’m looking at on the front page, and I’m wondering if I’m on one of those 65,000 flights! Odds are pretty good that I am.
The story goes on to explain that USA Today recently conducted a six-month investigation which revealed that substandard repairs, unqualified mechanics, and lax oversight by airlines and the FAA are not at all unusual! I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that this story covered half of the front page and all of the second page!
Trying to remain positive and get my mind off that encouraging story, I turned to the Money Section of the paper. I should have known better. Right in the center of the front page of that section was the photo of another airplane and a baggage handler tossing a bag into the belly of the aircraft. The headline read: “Do airlines improve bag handling when fees rise?”
The article covered half of the front page and two thirds of the second page, focusing on the recent increases in baggage fees by most every airline. The major thrust of the article revealed that very little, if any, of that money ($2.7 billion in the last year) collected was used to reduce the number of lost and damaged bags or enhance the technology used to track our bags. It also pointed out that mishandled bags cost the airline industry $3 billion last year!
None of this information really shocked me as I’ve been hearing it for quite some time now. However, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the double irony. First, I’m reading this depressing information while strapped helplessly captive in one of those poorly maintained aircrafts that will more than likely lose or damage my bag after charging me an increased fee for that privilege.
Secondly, the only airline NOT charging a fee of any kind for your first two bags happened to be the ONLY airline in the nation to earn a profit for the past year! Hello-o-o-o? Need I mention that it was Southwest?