That’s the question this Business Week column asks and the answer they conclude is (of course) that United should be broken up and sold. The reasons aren’t particularly compelling – in fact, it appears that the reasons given are:
1) The pilots aren’t happy;
2) One of the columnist’s co-workers had a delay last week.
I’m not sure if covering the airline industry brings out the worst in most reporters (the Dallas Morning News, the NY Times, and the WSJ excepted), but this is just another example of bandwagon jumping by a reporter who hasn’t really done his homework.
United may very well be in trouble – and God knows the forces in the industry are lined up against them. But every article that mentions removing pillows as a reason why airlines are falling apart are way, way off the mark. Charging for pillows (and sodas) are remedies for the problems they have – not the problems themselves. After all the hand-wringing and complaining about pillows passes, we’ll all realize that charging for stuff was a smart move. As Cranky Flier points out, charging for this stuff is a good thing. Free drinks and whatnot was a relic of the regulated system 30 years ago. Fares have dropped considerably since then without (until recently) any drop in amenities. After all this time, they’re starting to charge for food (which everyone used to complain about), drinks ($2? Get over it), and pillows (really…you slept better on a coach pillow?). I’m thinking it’s about time that the backlash to the backlash kicks in.