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GM Should Be Just Like The Airlines? I Hope Not! November 21, 2008

Posted by Kate Ryan in Economy, National Politics, popular culture.
Tags: , ,

general-motorsI remember the first time I ever flew the friendly skies.  I was traveling from Buffalo to Houston via Chicago O’Hare.  I left Buffalo – on time – early in the morning, and I got a hot breakfast…really.  When I left Chicago, it was an hour earlier, so I got another breakfast.  It was thrilling!  This was 1985 or so; I think I paid somewhere around $350 for the flight.  My business trips from Buffalo to Boston were a little over an hour long and cost around $200.  I always got a soft drink (the whole can!), peanuts, and a box breakfast or lunch.  I checked my bags – curbside – for free, got the aisle seat that I requested – also free – and picked up my luggage at flight’s end and it was always there.  Ah, the olden days!

Contrast that with my latest business flight to Jacksonville.  My flight to Washington Dulles was about 20 minutes late.  At the check-in desk, I was directed to a self-service kiosk.  Apparently, the people at the airline check-in only checked in luggage, not people.  I was offered preferred seating – for a fee.  Then, I paid $15 to check my bag (women traveling for more than 2 days can NOT carry-on).   I was offered a free soft drink, but it was about one-third of a can.  No peanuts.  In Washington, I made my connection to Jacksonville after having to buy an overpriced and really icky sandwich in the terminal.  Again, I got a tiny soft drink on the plane.  One bright spot, my bags WERE there when I arrived.  I know it’s 23 years later, but my ticket cost over $1,000.  For coach.  And not a single peanut.

All of the pundits advocating for an automaker bankruptcy say, “Well, the airlines all restructured under Chapter 11 and they survived.”  Yes, they survived (though some are no more), but at what price?  The fleets are aged and creaky, the employees are beaten and somewhat surly, the planes are worn and dirty, and customer service is just a lovely anachronism.  If GM reorganized just like an airline, what could a consumer expect?  Hey, do you want a lock for that door?  Twenty bucks.  What about a back seat?  Fork over a hundred!  Do you want service?  Well, go to a computerized kiosk, diagnose your own problem, purchase a repair kit, fix your own car, then come into the shop just to pay for it all.  Believe me, it is not outside the boundaries of reason.

When I was in college, I traveled back and forth on the Greyhound bus.  It was a really grim and somewhat frightening experience.  I hear that Greyhound has been increasing ridership lately.  For much less cost, you get a clean, comfortable ride.  Some of the buses now have wi-fi ability.  There are no security hassles – you can bring your liquid foundation RIGHT ONTO THE BUS!  No reservations are required; it might take over a day to get there and I’d still have to buy food, but the one-way fare from Buffalo to Jacksonville is only $183!  Maybe I’ll look at Greyhound next time, before I book another “steerage-in-the-sky” trip!



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