Can we blame the airlines for absolutely everything?

Fortunately, I live in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is summer in December.  I have been watching the news, though, and I’ve seen pictures of the very cold conditions being experienced in many places in Europe and North America.  I’ve also been watching the news broadcasts of people being stranded at airports, and of those people complaining about the airlines because their planes are grounded.

This got me wondering: are the airlines really responsible for all the bad weather?   Have they caused huge snowstorms and icy conditions simply because they would prefer to keep their planes on the ground?  Is it really fair to blame the airlines for the bad weather? And if so, can we also congratulate them for good weather?

The answer to the first question is no, the airlines are in no way directly or indirectly responsible for the bad weather.  On the contrary, if it wasn’t for the airline industry needing the most up-to-date weather reports to ensure that flying is relatively safe, we may not get as much warning or information about the weather as we now enjoy.

Secondly, is this atrocious weather a plot by airlines just to keep their planes on the ground?  No, it is not.  Ask any airline executive or indeed, anyone who has even scarce knowledge of the airline industry, and they will tell you that airlines make the most money when their planes are in the air.  Landing, taking off and using airport facilities are expensive.  There is obviously a cost with flying, but being airborne is still the best way to make money in the aviation industry.

Thirdly, is it fair for stranded passengers to sit at airports during blizzards and blame the airlines for their inconvenience? Not necessarily.  The reason I put that view is because some airlines are good at informing passengers about what is happening during delays, while other airlines are quite atrocious at the amount of information they release.  It is perfectly understandable that stranded passengers want information. But then, airlines often don’t know when they will be flying again because that depends on the weather, which they have no control over, so any optimistic information they give could be misleading, which would make passengers even angrier.  If you do have a departure lounge full of angry people, is it too much to make them angrier by giving out information that is wrong?  Giving passengers false hopes is probably worse than giving them no hope at all.

I have noticed that many passengers are quite happy to blame the airlines for their own behaviour.  For instance, if an airline tells you online when you book your ticket, or provides information in the documents given you by your travel agent that check-in closes 30 minutes before departure and you show up 25 minutes before departure, it is not the airline’s fault that you are late, and they have the right not to process you.  There may even be a terrific reason for your late arrival, but that is still not the business of the airline.  Airlines run on schedules, and one late passenger has no right to disrupt the travel arrangements for the hundreds of other passengers who did check-in on time.  Therefore, if you are late for check-in, blame yourself, not the airline.

If you’ve purchased the cheapest ticket on a flight with a budget airline, don’t blame the airline if you don’t get a free meal.  Budget airlines give you plenty of warning when you purchase your ticket regarding charges for meals, luggage and seating reservations. Normally, this information is supplied in quite big fonts, because the airlines want you to know about them so that you can pay for these services, and earn the airline more money.  Don’t blame the airline because you didn’t read the conditions.

Airlines bless them; usually try to do a good job.  They need to as it’s cheaper for them to have repeat passengers than it is to advertise for new ones.  Even the worst airlines seem to be better providers than most other forms of public transport.  Ryanair is one of the most maligned airlines in the world, but it still manages to transport thousands of people each day between hundreds of cities, so they must be doing something right.  Perhaps, all they are doing is selling tickets at a price which makes flying one of the most affordable means of transport.  If all they are promising is to get you from one place to another, and get you there safely, they’ve done what you’ve contracted them to do – anything else is luxury, and not really worth whingeing about.

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