Before sharing my 2 cents worth... If there's one thing we can all agree on.... Frank Lorenzo was a lightning rod for all sorts of things. You either loved him or you hated him.
My experinces with CO
in the late 1980s were not good. I worked in YOW
for WD- Wardair was contracted to handle CO
. As an involved outsider and at the operations level, I found CO
's quality of service, morale of crews, and safety of aircraft to be questionable at best.
Flight crews were not allowing their own families to fly using family passes on CO
aircraft-- and to have seen the number of little yellow "INOPERATIVE" tape strips across gauges, switches and dials in the DC-9 cockpits I can honestly tell you that I wasn't surprised. I was in no hurry to take the offered fam flight to IAD
. Let's just say that what the public didn't know, never hurt them....
What I understand about Lorenzo's dispicable business practices was that he would use the capital in an airline as collateral to purchase the airline. Then there would be no available equity to finance new aircraft or available credit for day-to-day operations. Many other airlines quickly learned from his stupid antics or else they would have followed down the same road at their peril.
Deregulation or not, one simply doesn't operate a capital-intensive business in that fashion. That Lorenzo thought he could, on the scale that he tried, was demonstrative of a shortsightedness, colossal ego and arrogance beyond compare.
Strong opinions? You bet. Flame me if you want. I still get tense (and intense) when I think of what he did to Eastern, Western, Frontier, New York Air, Continental and any other airline that had been a product of love and devotion of their founders, previous owners, and employees. I am still that angry about the mess he created.
Two stories to demonstrate the visceral reaction I feel for Lorenzo's project:
I once had to go pick up Kentucky Fried Chicken from off-airport because the 17:30pm YOW
flight hadn't been catered out of IAD
on its inbound flight as it should have been. The F/As were beside themselves in frustration, embarrassment and panic from the fear of the 30 hungry pax about to board- and having no meals to serve. I'll never forget the looks of profound relief and complete joy on their faces when they saw me carrying barrels of KFC and coleslaw onboard!
I recall a night in February when, before calculating a stiff windchill, the temperature was minus 20c (0F) and our local Hudson General mechanic was out on the tarmac changing brake pads because the last departure city, EWR
at the time, apparently didn't do brakes- or so we learned later. He risked life and limb as a mechanic- hypothermia and frostbite- when it was completely unnecessary.
Airline mergers are never easy or simple. Labour strife is almost inevitable. Add the complete insensitivity Lorenzo had for the 'families' that airline comeraderie creates, the financial woes he created when he bought five airlines and then sucked the life-blood out of them, you have the recipe for strong opinions.
You know mine and I didn't even work for him directly. I know there are hundreds or thousands who would agree with me but who, because of Lorenzo, lost the love of airlines, found new vocations, and are simply not in or near the industry to stand up to be counted.
I thank all those who stood up to him. I congratulate all those who survived him. History may have been kind to Lorenzo but in the day-to-day battles he created, it was trench warfare in a civil-war sort of way, for every person who worked for him and to me he will never, ever, be anything more than the airlines' version of the Anti-Christ that he was in the 1980s.
Man, I hope I'm not hurting anybody's feelings here. But it's how I feel and how I have felt for 20 years.
Labour issues? Probably. Insufficient budgets and the worst airline ownership/stewardship in North American history? Most definitely.
Okay. I'm done. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I actually feel better now. I might even be able to kick the prozac.