Last week, I covered some of the airline industry's most outrageous occurrences of the year, and it was very tough to limit myself to just 10 items.
But for those of you who think the airlines did nothing right in 2008, that's not so. Sure, there were plenty of bad fees ($2 Coke, anyone?), but the airlines did impose one fee that brought a smile to a lot of faces. Plus, we saw altruism, punctuality and (seemingly) fewer passengers getting kicked off planes for bad behavior.
So settle back and peruse my list of what went right this year. There is some good stuff here, and the airlines have a right to be proud of all of it.
Airlines: Alive and Kicking I think it's a testament to its leadership that we still have an airline industry at all. If you think that's extreme, consider the airlines we lost last spring (ATA, Aloha, Maxjet and more) and think about the two major crises of the year: soaring oil prices and the ongoing economic meltdown. It took incredible discipline to survive all this, along with seat cuts, creative pricing and mergers. Now let's just hope the airlines keep "managing smart."
Stop the Presses: Airline Execs Take Pay Cuts Some airline executives -- not all, but some -- took pay cuts earlier this year, partly because they wanted to set an example in tough times and partly because they had to lay off employees. To some, this was a meaningless, symbolic gesture. Still, if the Big Three automakers had made such symbolic gestures from the start (which they ultimately did, but rather late in the game) their pleas for a bailout might have received a warmer reception.
Wi-Fi in the Wild Blue Yonder Road warriors rejoiced as "lap-topping" on flights became easier, thanks to Wi-Fi enhanced longer haul jets -- and so did everyone else forced to endure another stale airline movie (anyone for "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2"?) Even better, unlike some overseas carriers, the United States still says no to cell phones on planes.
U.S./Europe Open Skies Pact Opened Eyes It began with a straight-out-of-the-Wild-West gold rush for Heathrow as airlines fought for the expected riches of newly relaxed trans-Atlantic traffic rules. Unfortunately, the high price of oil kept most airlines from getting the most out of Open Skies. Watch for this to change in 2009. Low-cost carrier Ryanair, for one, says it plans to dive in and offer Europe-to-U.S. fares for less than $20. Yes, you read that right.
Safety First More than anything else, this is what U.S. airlines have done right: maintainined a superb safety record for the year, with no fatalities. Yes, there were problems, the most recent being the jet that slid off the runway in Denver last weekend, and oddities like the pilot who accidentally fired a gun in the cockpit and those two pilots who overshot their airport by 15 miles because they'd fallen asleep. But mostly, it was a good year for safety. Let it continue.