Burned–not just figuratively: literally.
And while the feeling might be among those not close to the fire, “who cares,” the answer is simple, once you too start feeling the flames. And you will: the way of American business today is to break up the furniture and burn it to heat the house.
Still you might say, “not in my business” to which I’d reply, “maybe not for now.” But you will notice the wildfire consuming the airline business the next time you decide to go somewhere by air. And eventually, if those in big business who control yours decide it’s financially expedient in the short term to cash you out, your very own comfy chair, desk, pension and future will provide the heat to warm the place long after you’re out in the cold.
The Dallas Morning News reports that the combined post-bankruptcy Delta-Northwest combination, over 30,000 airline jobs went up in smoke; the post-bankruptcy Continental-United merger torched an equal number; USAir through bankruptcy burned up another 20,000, and American Airlines just forced into bankruptcy will of necessity claim thousands more faces ghostly to those who don’t know them, even more ghostly to those who do.
But not you, not now, right? No, now it’s this guy, and whether you know it or not, he is you–not that you’d recognize it or admit it, for now:
He’s the Citizen Kane who has been handling your bags for all of the years you’ve been flying. He’s the muscle behind the launch of your jet to wherever you’re going, then he goes home to a family like yours. He’s been doing this for twenty-some years–but not any more: he’s been cashed out, broken up and thrown on the fire to heat the house. There are hordes waiting to smash your bags for minimum wage–so who needs him?
Airlines have no choice but to invest billions in new aircraft, then try to make ends meet with a cost structure skewed by oil prices, the wild card held hostage by both oil speculators and petroleum producing nations, many of whom despise the American way of life–including the cheap airfares connecting the length and breadth of our far-flung nation, a promise made to you by your congress as if it were a sacred entitlement no matter whose job or pension it costs to deliver the savings to you. Who do you think will pay that price for you?
I know who. She’s the one who would save your butt over her own when the real fires start burning:
Many started with me back in the 80s, flying now to support families and to pay mortgages and to have life on the earth like everyone else. Thousands of those dreams and lives went up in smoke through bankruptcy court to heat the chilling business that hangs and dies on the price of a barrel of oil. And month after month, that fluctuation extinguishes not only the hopes and dreams of folks like her–but also the bottom line of the airline that you love to vilify for charging a fraction of what it costs to buy an NFL or NBA playoff ticket. Getting you there, however, must be bargain basement pricing, right? I mean, it’s your right, right?
And don’t forget this guy; well, then again I guess you’d better:
He’s the knuckle-buster I depend on to tell me the jet’s ready, fixed, 100%. And when he says it, I know it’s true. Because he’s the same mechanic who migrated with me from tough, lean years in the military, or the civilian A&P ranks, who like me has put in the thousands of hours of sweat equity taming these giant beasts of metal and fuel and fire and a thousand high-tech components wiring it into a flyable tonnage the size of a freight train at shotgun speed–with your ass strapped aboard. But, his craft can be duplicated–though his lineage certainly cannot be–somewhere a thousand miles off shore for a third of the price. So he goes up in smoke too.
And finally, come on up to the pointy end.
Who’s going to fly your jet? Me, I’m here for the duration: USAF experience worldwide, 26+ years at my airline, 21+ as captain, but here’s the catch: who in the next generation of pilots who witness my nearly 27 years of pension go up in smoke like a “strike-anywhere” match as it just did is going to dedicate his life to your cheap air travel? Who will spend the $80,000+ on flight ratings, or the years of military indentured servitude to aspire to the dead end, $20,000 a year entry level that the job boils down to, just to linger in slow-death overtime as no one can afford to leave once their pension is erased?
Airline analyst Michael Boyd predicted that if this trend continues, airline pilots of the future will be the five year, “I was a ski bum/bartender in Aspen then got a real job” type turnovers, despite the weather, the terrain, the technology, and the challenges of piloting your airline flight.
Because who else with a lick of sense would perform a life and death drama daily for peanuts and an unsure future, branded by the vision of 100,000 airline pilots before them stripped of a future, cut loose with a retirement reduced to nothing?
I don’t know who, but that’s who’ll fly your jets. And I don’t know who in their right minds would choose the monumental and unrecoverable price tag that fuels the “burn ’em up and keep it cheap” model endorsed by your blind eye congress and ultimately by, well, you.
And that’s what you’ll get. Breaking up the furniture to heat the house, regardless of what’s left, never mind habitability or who would have thought, survivability, down the road?
Meanwhile, no worries for now, bon voyage and just warm yourself at the bonfire . . . for as long as it lasts.