I just finished reading the book Attention All Passengers: The Truth about the Airline Industry, by William McGee.
Mr. McGee has good credentials: he is the former editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter. In 2012 the U. S. secretary of transportation appointed him as a consumer advocate to the Future of aviation Advisory Committee. He has spent almost seven years in airline flight operations management, and he is an FAA licensed flight dispatcher.
The problems evident in the airline industry are the same problems that are characteristic of much of American industry: Excessive attention to profit, high executive compensation along with too little attention to quality production, safety, and good relations with employees and customers.
Many concerns will be familiar to any one who has flown on commercial airlines recently: crowding, little seat space, inadequate storage space in overhead bins, problems with the loss of luggage, delays, and cancelled flights. The comfort and sometimes even the safety of passengers is overlooked.
Outsourcing of flights, reservations, and even maintenance increases frustration and decreases safety. While the major airlines publicize their safety records (and have no doubt, flying is the safest way to travel), and claim that they have had no crashes in 10 years, the truth is they outsource many flights to regional airlines where the record is not as clean. Passengers may not know that they are not flying on a major airline, the ticket, the plane, and the staff may all look like the major airline, but they are not. Pilots and flight attendants in the regional airlines may be seriously underpaid, unable to support themselves, commuting long distances, and grabbing some sleep when they can. (Second jobs in order to meet expenses, to say nothing about meeting the school loan bills are often essential). These employees are then responsible for the comfort and safety of hundreds of passengers.
Outsourcing of maintenance of the planes is the scariest of the stories that William McGee has to tell. It is truly frightening to realize that so much maintenance is done overseas. The mechanics may not be licensed, and an entire staff may be supervised by only one licensed mechanic. The FAA oversight is limited by distance, inadequate funding, and by a strong culture of inappropriate friendship with the airline executives.
This has been sad for me in part because I have a family member who works for the airlines. I also hate to see the deterioration of an industry which we once were so proud of.
I recommend this book, obviously it is a disturbing one. People who are interested in flight, in aviation,a nd in American business, will find it enlightening.