Zero Hour for the Airlines

In my last post, I mentioned how the airlines are going to hell in a handbasket.

The trend seems to be accelerating, helped in no small part by unions that cannot see the forest for the trees.  Earlier this month, thousands of British Airways passengers were horribly inconvenienced by sympathy strikes staged by BA workers at Heathrow Airport.  The scenes of passengers camped out at the airport, Europe’s busiest, weren’t helped by images of long lines of frustrated travelers futilely seeking answers from overwhelmed BA staffers.  The entire episode threatens to undo the years of hard work that CEO Rod Eddington and his team have done to turn around the once ailing carrier.  Already, the media have reported the angry threats of BA customers vowing never to fly the self-described "world’s favourite airline" again as a result.

Now comes the news that Northwest Airlines faces a walkout by its mechanics’ union this weekend. The union is worried that half of its members’ jobs would disappear if it agrees to the airline’s demand for concessions.  In a strange twist, Wall Street is frankly hoping for a strike, and Northwest’s stock rose on the news of the possibility.

So here we have one international carrier that has risen from the depths, only to have years of progress sabotaged by its workers in a matter of days.  Another, hoping to emerge from Chapter 11, may face the same fate.  When will unions learn to cut their adversarial nonsense and realize that, once they sully their companies’ reputations, they destroy themselves and their members in the process?

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