Over the last 10 years, airlines have been cutting back flights, raising ticket prices and adding on baggage and other fees, cutting down on in-flight entertainment and meal service, plus airlines have either gone completely belly up, have merged with other airlines, or are close to bankruptcy.
I see a number of factors in this:
- Policies after 9/11 have changed passengers’ flying habits. One might consider flying from Boston or Baltimore to New York City, for example, but in light of needing at least 1.5 hours just to go through security checkpoints, travelers might consider driving or taking the train instead.
- Prices have been greatly affected by fuel costs and other overhead with operating an airline. Economic problems, especially in the last 3 years, have caused less vacation trips.
- I’m observing many companies doing less in-person meetings in favor of “virtual meetings” thanks to the Internet and telecommunication technologies. I know one salesperson who, 10 years ago, had at least one flight every month to make pitches who now only might fly to a customer’s office every 6 months thanks to GotoMeeting and similar products.
Cincinnati, once a good sized Delta hub, now has greatly reduced service, as has Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Milwaukee. Non-hub airports like Buffalo, Providence, and Portland, OR once had pretty good coverage of non-stop destinations, which have all been cut down either entirely or in the form of using much smaller planes. In 1999, you saw more 757s flying out of Providence; today there is only the occasional 757 US Airways will use for a flight to Charlotte, and that’s only seasonal. American Airlines dropped out of Providence entirely in 2008. Providence even used to have some international service to the Azores and Caribbean locations, but today its sole regularly serviced international destination is to Toronto, and that’s on a tiny turboprop. Buffalo doesn’t have any passenger international service, even to nearby Canada. Passenger numbers have declined rapidly in Providence, from 5.7 million passengers in 2005 down to only 3.9 million in 2010.
Do you guys think this will be a trend that will continue? I imagine we won’t see any improvements to airline service until somehow fuel prices are reduced and the economy improves… but even then, while business still obviously need airline services, as do tourists, that need has been declining a bit thanks to technology improvements, especially in the teleconference department.