I also remember the "good old days" too. I enjoyed flying TWA from PHX
. I remember the 707, 720B, the FH
-227, DC-9, 727 and many other classics from the 60's and 70's. But times had to change because our economy and our technology changed. Our tastes changed as well.
There is still room in the airline industry for premium service, including business class. However, the airlines are largely to blame for their own problems. They demanded larger aircraft, such as the 747, DC-10, and L-1011. They failed to properly plan for higher fuel costs and fuel embargoes. They failed to anticipate downturns in our economy in the early 70's and again in the early 80's.
Airlines have gotten somewhat smarter by going toward the smaller RJ
's on the market, but they haven't learned their lesson entirely. Hence, the Airbus A380. Can the airlines that have placed orders for the A380 or Boeing's 7E7 predict in advance they'll be able to sell enough seats to make their investments worthwhile?
The original post in this thread made reference to USAirways, so I'll comment on their situation in reference to the past, present and future of the industry. US grew out of Allegheny, which had become a conglomerate of regional carriers. US is still a conglomerate of regionals. That hasn't changed. What has, however, is the rise of other carriers, including WN
. US tried to become United, American and Delta. It wasn't satisfied with the domestic market. It went after international routes. The international routes made money while many of their domestic ones were losing revenues to their competition and other factors.
Now, as US enters Ch 11 for the second time in two years, its executives are trying to re-define the carrier as an LCC. In essence, the carrier is trying to re-invent itself to compete with Southwest, JetBlue, AirTran and America West. Frontier is also establishing itself more along the lines of HP
. I recently priced flights from PHX
for a co-worker who wants to visit family in Chicago. I discovered that in November, my co-worker can fly round-trip to MDW
for $117. Even WN
can't beat that price. They charge $156 for the same period of time on the same route.
That's the present of the industry. The future will continue to lean toward LCC's, but that does not necessarily dictate an influx of such carriers over the next 5-10 years. Rather, the ones currently in command in the LCC category will remain as such while the legacy carriers will attempt to compete with their spinoffs, such as TED and Song. The other legacy carriers, such as AA
are content with their identities. They've established their niche in the business. They are able to provide premium service on both domestic and international routes. They are also able to serve many smaller airports with their regional carrier networks.
Airline executives cannot predict the future any better than most of us who post in the A.net forums. For that reason, they are all vulnerable to circumstances beyond their control, such as 9/11, other terrorist threats, and ever-increasing fuel costs. Think back to 1981 and the PATCO strike. Although the airlines had about a four-month warning of what would come, they still weren't ready for the strike and for Reagan's mass firings.
Airlines can survive these challenges by the way their executives and managers manage everyday operations and plan for the future. While I've often spoken up for the labor unions in this forum, I do have to say that I believe the union leaders do not fully appreciate the impact of unpredictable events on the financial health of their carriers. The unions must do a much better job of forecasting changes in the industry and working with, not against, their employers to make certain that the airlines do "weather the storm" (including this season's onslaught of hurricanes).