3 Links I Love: Airport Mismanagement in Virginia, A Strange Belief on Loyalty, No Golden Age of Travel

This week’s featured link:
Records: Former Newport News airport execs spent big on travelThe Daily Press
If you haven’t been following the saga of Newport News airport’s spending spree, then I highly recommend you grab some popcorn and pull up a seat. After Southwest pulled AirTran out of the airport several years ago, it seems the people running the airport panicked and decided to throw money at anything that moves. You may remember the failed restart of People Express. Well, the airport was so desperate for new flights that it agreed to pay off that company’s debts if it defaulted. Spoiler alert: it defaulted.

But it’s not just that kind of thing that has hurt the airport. It’s all the fraud and mismanagement. The airport director, already handsomely paid at over $220,000 a year, was fired for reimbursing himself for personal expenses. And now the local paper has started investigating the huge travel budget that was theoretically supposed to be spent in support of new service at the airport. But what you’ll see is a ton of travel to events that would never have resulted in new air service (including a trip to the Paris Air Show). It’s no wonder Allegiant pulled out a couple years ago. All of this lavish expenditure goes right to airline charges.

Delta CFO: Loyalty ‘Took Off’ When the Airline Switched to a Revenue-Based ModelSkift
I don’t even know where to start with this. I suppose I can just point to the fact that the Chief FINANCIAL Officer is the one lecturing on loyalty and not someone in marketing. *sigh*

There Was No ‘Golden Age’ of Air TravelThe New York Times
The Times picked a provocative headline, but the gist of the article is something I of course agree with. No matter how often this comes up, however, it never sways people. Patrick had some follow up thoughts on his site as well.

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25 Comments on "3 Links I Love: Airport Mismanagement in Virginia, A Strange Belief on Loyalty, No Golden Age of Travel"

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I really question the need for much traffic out of Newport News.

Sure, the bridges and tunnels are a pain, but ORF (Norfolk airport) is right across the bay from Newport News (and seemed to be more dominant in local traffic than Newport News when I lived in the area years ago), and Richmond is an option for travelers who are willing to drive a bit more.

At the end of the day, I suspect that most civilian air traffic to the Chesapeake/Va Beach/Norfolk area should (and will) long term run through ORF, with Newport News picking up some leftovers.

Tim Dunn
It makes a lot of sense that loyalty improves under a revenue based model. Delta is rewarding the people who most contribute to Delta’s bottom line; everyone wants to be part of a more elite club. Frequent flyer programs that are based on mileage do not reward the people that spend the most while a dollar based program does. It is not a surprise that there were people who lost out when not just Delta but also United and then American converted to revenue based FFPs. As for the golden age of air travel, of course it is safer and… Read more »

Remember when the “in-flight movie” was projected onto a blurry bulkhead screen, and you listened through one of those stethoscope-style headsets with jagged plastic cups that scratched into your ear?

I do remember thoes. What the hell were thoes things and how did they work?

Bill Hough

I would gladly return to the days of stethoscope-style headsets if it comes with honest fares and no nickel and diming. The “golden age” of air travel wasn’t that long ago, back in the mid-1990s. Nobody wants to go back to the bloated, regulated industry of the early 1970s.

Penny Traveler

I think that’s the point, you can pay more for the privilege not being nickel and dimming. For a few of us that don’t mind working harder to save a few nickel and dime for other purpose in our life, now there are options for our kind. At the end, there are more choices to cater to different group of demographics.

Steve Ly

Taking into account all of the add-ons and fees, we’re still paying at least as much as before. The only beneficiaries are airlines, because excise tax percentages are only calculated on the base fare, not the fees

Actually, no, we’re not paying “at least as much as before”, at least not for anyone who doesn’t pay full walk-up fares. I’ll use a personal example: in 1971 my grandparents paid $299 for me to fly round-trip from San Francisco to Albany. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI inflation calculator (https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl) that equates to $1,779 in 2017 dollars. I just priced out a comparable itinerary on Kayak with a purchase two months in advance (my grandparents probably had to buy further in advance, but I wanted to keep the comparison in the summer travel season.) Base fare was… Read more »

Obviously, fares were higher in 1971, that was before deregulation. A better comparison is now vs. 1990-2005. Total fares paid would be about the same, just without the annoying nickle-and-diming.`

southbay flier
I remember flying ORD – LHR on BA in J back in 1989 and it was just like flying in a domestic F seat. Now, you would be lying flat. First class wasn’t even flat back then. Being able to lie flat and sleep while flying over the ocean is much better. That doesn’t even include the fact that you now have screens where you can select from a large list of movies and watch one of them whenever you want. Yeah, it’s true that you used to have more legroom in coach and were fed meals as well. But,… Read more »
With regard to the “golden age of air travel”, it’s hard to say. I see some comments referencing the 80’s or 90’s, but I flew quite a bit as a kid in the 60’s and 70’s and can tell you that the seats were roomier and the meals fancier (even – or especially – in economy) way back then than they were by 1985. I recall an IAD-SAN flight on AA back in 1969, where we received a menu with multiple dinner choices….in coach! And yes, everyone dressed up to fly. There were no overhead bins, only a shelf for… Read more »
For me personally there WAS a golden age of air travel, the 1970’s until deregulation. As a former airline brat I am biased of course, air travel was NOT for the masses back then. We non-revved around the world. We had dress codes. Never ever make a fuss about ANYTHING. But once on the plane we were wined and dined like VIP’s. In coach! I could bore you all with my trips to Europe as a kid in the 70’s but I wont. Yes, fares are cheaper. Yes there are thousands of more options. But it WAS a golden age,… Read more »
There certainly was a Golden Age of Air Travel. I flew as a director of customer service on TWA’s 747s and L-1011s from 1970-1974. We had roomy coach lounges on both (domestic routes only). I’ve never heard of a piano lounge on the upper deck of the 747 as the article writer states (I believe AA had one for a short time on their main deck 747 coach lounges). Seats were much roomier in coach, with TWA providing a generous 35″ pitch to the DC-9s coming into the fleet in the late sixties (compared to AA’s present 29″). A hot… Read more »

It’s called “nostalgia.” People remember the good things, not the bad. I’ve flown millions of millions since the ’80s and, objectively, I can say air travel has never been better. That said, if I were currently sitting in the middle seat on a transcon 737/A320 after being in boarding group 8 and waited in line for twenty minutes at the TSA check only to get randomly selected for additional screening, I would think it’s never been worse.


I f you’re not a first/business class flyer, check out this before you think coach flying is better than in the “Golden Age” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/09/business/what-its-like-to-fly-for-a-week-straight.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur