Say It Ain’t So, Sam (And Southwest Airlines)
This week’s news feed produced the disturbing and surprising announcement that Missouri’s Rep. Sam Graves will vote in favor of ATC privatization, otherwise known as HR 2997, but in real terms the biggest public giveaway to the airlines since the depression.
Graves, you probably know, is head of the House general aviation caucus and has been a reliable, stalwart supporter of the industry since his term began in George W. Bush’s first term. In supporting the 21st Century AIRR Act, as it’s called, Graves said he flipped from opposing the bill to supporting it because a provision has been added prohibiting user fees for general aviation. (Read the text here.)
Seriously? Rep. Graves has been around the houses enough times to know that the once the large hill of privatization is climbed in the first place, the nettlesome clause about user fees can be dispensed with by subsequent revisions. I wonder if he believes the GA community is naļve enough to accept his assurances. But I wonder even more what he traded for that vote because good public policy it ain’t.
The bill also has a provision that prohibits the ATC corporation from denying airspace access to non-fee-paying entities. I believe that will stick like I believe in the Easter Bunny. Once the door is open to privatization, the airline-dominated oversight board will reconfigure the system ever so slowly to optimize it for its own needs. As I’ve said before, I’m less worried about fees than an erosion of easy and routine access to all ATC services. I’m just contrarian enough to go against the alphabets on this issue, but I just can’t see an argument that this structure is of any conceivable benefit and I’m not willing to give it a chance. So, sorry Sam. I’m not buying it.
Bouquets and Brickbats for Southwest
Hardly a week goes by, it seems, that we aren’t running news about some airline mistreating customers or some customers running off the rails and having to be forcibly ejected from an airliner, with cause. It’s a jungle out there.
So it was cheering to hear this story about Southwest turning a departing flight back to the gate and removing a woman passenger. The reason was that the airline had been notified that the woman’s son had become comatose. They rerouted her travel plans so she could join her son at bedside. They tended to her luggage and even packed a lunch at one of her connections. The son recovered and so far, everyone is living happily ever after.
Oddly, this didn’t happen last week or even last month, but more than two years ago. It was covered contemporaneously. It recently resurfaced because, well shucks, it’s just so heartwarming. And it is. Southwest went above and beyond, even if it actually happened two years ago. I’m a regular customer of Southwest and a beneficiary of its exceptional customer service. But as you’re dabbing that tear from the corner of your eye, let me hurl this imaginary brick through the Southwest storefront.
Last week, I got an email from the airline urging me to call my representative to support HR 2997. Say it ain’t so, Southwest. And not just no, but hell no.