Airlines fail their passengers
Posted April 11, 2008

This week marked a significant decline in the airline industry. Three major airlines closed within days of each other, leading to loss of jobs, stranded passengers and worried consumers.

On Wednesday, American Airlines announced they were canceling more than 1,000 flights, resulting in more turmoil for passenger transportation. The number of flights being pulled means that more than 100,000 travelers will be scrambling to find new flights.

The first major sign of trouble occurred when Aloha Airlines filed for bankruptcy on April 3, leaving many customers with no way to get off the Hawaiian islands. The airline, based out of Indianapolis, closed its counters and stationed state transportation agents throughout airports to inform passengers of the shutdown. Not only were customers left wondering how to travel, but the carrier’s employees, totaling more than 2,200 people, were all let go. With the closure of Aloha Airlines, tourism experts are estimating a loss of 511,000 travelers to Hawaii this year alone.

ATA Airlines also filed for bankruptcy and announced its closure along with Aloha Airlines. Michael Freitag, a spokesman for ATA, reported that the airline previously had 50 flights a day, now leaving nearly 10,000 people without their services. ATA set signs out at airports telling customers of the shutdown.

The airline, established in 1973, served areas including Chicago, Dallas, Hawaii, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. ATA was also a leading carrier for the military. ATA employed around 2,230 associates who will also most likely lose their jobs.

Skybus became the third airline to announce its closure on Saturday.

It’s clear the airline industry is fighting the terrible state of the economy and the rising gas costs. However, the once dependable airlines are going out of business and leaving their customers without many options. The closure of airlines resulted in frustrated passengers and their dismay over not always being able to get reimbursement for their tickets. Although some customers were able to get their money back from their credit card companies, others were unable to get a refund if they paid for their tickets by other means.

Another clearly negative factor will be other airlines driving up their prices, since there will be more demand.

An already extremely expensive ticket will now go for even more. This surge in prices will also affect tourism in the United States and abroad.

Travel agents have already estimated that nearly seven percent of those traveling to the Hawaiian islands can’t due to Aloha Airlines and ATA closing. That is a lot of revenue that will go untouched because ATA customers have given up their plans.

What’s more upsetting than canceled flights is the reason American Airlines gives – failing to meet wiring rules set by the Federal Aviation Administration. While all of the airlines maintain passengers were not in danger, this news will most likely alarm all customers.

These events are sad and frustrating for the employees that were laid off and for travelers who now may have to rethink their trip plans. This fallback for the industry is a true hardship for those of us at ULV stuck in midterms and dreaming of a vacation getaway on a plane. Looks like the tropical serenity of Hawaii may be unreachable. Let’s hope our country’s transportation systems can rally despite our sinking economy.

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