The last few weeks have been quite rough for the airlines. United Airlines especially has faced much outrage over an incident on an aircraft operated by one of its regional affiliates. These blunders by the airlines have brought consumer unrest and unhappiness with the airlines. Although people can complain all that they want, the airlines are not close to the terrible monsters that the public and the media make them out to be. In many ways, airline travel has improved over the years. It is time to stop ruthlessly attacking the modern airline industry.
One of the most common complaints from passengers is the price of a ticket. Passengers love to say that a ticket is too expensive or that the airlines are taking advantage of them. The airlines are not taking advantage of you. The airlines have very skinny profit margins. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is projecting a 4.1% profit margin for airlines worldwide in 2017. That 4.1% is brought into perspective when you consider that the iPhone you are likely reading this on was sold to you at a profit margin estimated to be between 60% and 70%. A 4.1% profit margin seems small, doesn’t it? Airlines operate on such small margins due to the massive expenses involved in operating an airline. Remember that mega carriers in the U.S. employ thousands of people. United, for example, has about 86,000 employees. The mentioned employees would like raises because they took huge pay cuts during the most recent recession and would like the airlines to return the favor. Labor is a huge expense to airlines, as is fuel. When fuel costs rise, so do ticket prices. Airlines also operate some of the most expensive equipment in the world. A typical short to medium haul jet such as the Boeing 737-800 has an average list price of $98.1 million per aircraft. A typical long-haul jet such as the Boeing 777-200ER has an average list price of $283.4 million per aircraft. United Airlines, for example, has a fleet of 738 aircraft as of the time of writing. As you can imagine paying for these aircraft is not cheap. The airlines are not taking advantage of you. Flying is simply an expensive industry to be in.
Many airline passengers seem to think that they are entitled to everything they could want with their economy class seat. The United Airlines/Republic Airways incident from a few weeks ago is a great example. Although the matter was handled incorrectly by the airline and the police, the fact of the matter is this: Republic Airways had EVERY RIGHT to have the passenger removed from their aircraft. The aircraft belongs to the airline just like your car or house belongs to you. If they want someone to get off their property, they have the right to request that the person leaves. The passenger in this case and passengers on most U.S. carriers agree to a contract of carriage. Most contracts of carriage note that the airline in question has the right and authority to refuse to carry a passenger. Just because a passenger purchased a ticket they are not usually entitled to flying on a specific aircraft or flight, nor are they entitled to flying at the time they selected while booking.
Airline passengers in America need to recheck their attitudes towards air travel. Airlines are not out to get them or intentionally trying to take advantage of them. They are simply doing their best to keep passengers flying safely and their company making money to pay their employees. Next time you fly, remember that the airlines are not the monsters that passengers and the media make them out to be.