The Airline Industry in transition is a fair assessment when you consider that terrorism is still affecting airlines.
In the last 12 years there is little doubt that terrorism affecting airlines has become a reality. It is now a costly consideration for every flight made.
I first began international business travel in the year 2000. Looking back now it was maybe then when we were at the height of comfortable and luxurious air travel. I admit that I am fortunate in that I fly business class whenever I am flying transcontinental. All the perks and luxuries you’d imagine for air travel are afforded to me by way of my ticket. Well they certainly were in times past and still are by some yet not all airlines.
My first ever business class flight was courtesy of British Airways (BA). An airline I’ve found to be highly courteous on board with a high class level of service. This first flight was from Heathrow and by error I entered the first class as opposed to the business class lounge in the terminal. Aware of my genuine mistake the staff allowed me to stay.
As you can imagine, for a first time business class traveller the lounge really opened my eyes. Waiter service, a wide range of complimentary food and snacks and free drinks of anything you wanted from the bar or cafeteria area.
This great service is something you can find today but I challenge you to name ten airlines who offer the same height of service and complimentary items now as then. Throughout my blog I will explore many of the areas of service, good and bad and not just from airlines so don’t worry Mr Willie Walsh!
The airline industry seems to have been in a state of flux for over a decade now and it doesn’t look like it will come out the other side any time soon. Indeed it has faced some momentous challenges in that time.
The first is the effect of terrorism. Whilst the 1988 Lockerbie incident which brought down a Pan Am flight was horrific and had many negative repercussions, nothing could compare to 2001.
The attacks of 11th September 2001 will forever live in our memory and through the live TV footage will be recorded for eternity. The fear and level of uncertainty not only gripped a nation but much of the world. I remember during the day of the attacks so many flight restrictions were put into place. Even the Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur (in a Muslim country like Malaysia) were on high alert.
I understand that the CEO of Delta Airlines at the time (Leo Mullins) indicated that prior to the attack they were handling around 300,000 fliers a day. Following the attack these numbers dropped dramatically to around 140,000 a day.
A dramatic fall off in the income stream through a factor beyond the airlines control was a true industry specific risk, not just political.
People were and many still are afraid to fly. The terrorists that day had got through some pretty gaping loopholes in security. Now thanks to them and their murderous act we may forever face strenuous and tedious security checks. This is even more complicated by the lack of consistency between not just nations but airports in the same country. Why is it that some require you to remove shoes, some don’t?
Some even require me to remove the handkerchief from my pocket! Since it is purely cloth, like my clothing it is beyond me to understand the perverseness of this inconsistent requirement. Cloth is cloth.
The effect of terrorism has been long running with more recent cases of the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, plus the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, showing the lengths they will go to. Liquids are now highly restricted in hand luggage as a result of another potential terrorist attack which was foiled.
Thankfully there has been little recent success in terrorist acts on airlines since 2001 yet the fear remains.
Airlines had to introduce new safety measures such as no passengers allowed in the cockpit. Security locks or codes on the cockpit door. There is even now the sight of a middle aged stewardess staring down the aisle with beady eyes as she places a trolley in front of her to block the front of the plane. This is so the pilot can use the toilet or just have staff go in and out of the cockpit. All important safety measures I agree, yet such a big change.
I am slightly perplexed though by the interviewing technique employed for flights heading to the US. Each time I get a flight to the US, from the UK or elsewhere I am asked some “routine” questions by an official in uniform. Questions such as “Where has your luggage been?”, “Have you any battery operated items?” etc. All very pressing questions? To be honest, if someone was devious enough to try something horrible I very much doubt that this round of questioning would prevent any such acts.
These questions are then followed up at the gate with “Has anyone given you anything to take on board the flight?” since you checked in and passed security. Well if I did (not that I did) then I’m at a loss as to how they would get it to me once I’d passed security.
I am rather baffled though. I’m asked all these questions to fly into the US. Why don’t they ask them once I’m in the US on internal flights or flying out? Clearly and understandably they are trying to protect US airspace. Yet surely any damage can be done by someone on the mainland rather than someone thousands of miles away.
Brains far greater than mine have figured out the logic in all this and why it makes them feel more secure. I just don’t quite see the full picture. Tight security checks yes, questions at check in where a verbal answer is given just don’t quite convince me.