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Opinion

If We Help Bailout the Airline Industry, Should We Get Something in Return?

If We Help Bailout the Airline Industry, Should We Get Something in Return?
Jeff Edwards

A New York Times op-ed contends that before U.S. taxpayers are asked to bail out the airline industry, the carriers–which have enjoyed unprecedented profits over the past decade–should be required to return the favor by giving something back to fliers.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to lose money again.” –American Airlines CEO Doug Parker September 28, 2017

An Immediate Cash Infusion

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ripple through the world’s economies, it’s clear that many businesses will need government assistance to survive. The U.S. Airline Industry, through it’s lobbying arm Airlines for America (A4A), has already outlined their needs: an “immediate and medium to long-term assistance” program that includes an immediate infusion of cash, government-backed loans and tax relief for the floundering airlines.

“This is a today problem, not a tomorrow problem,” A4A President Nicholas E. Calio said in a statement unveiling the plans. “It requires urgent action.”

A Counter Proposal

Although there is little doubt the airline industry will require bailing out, some see this as an opportunity for a counter demand: consumer protections.

In a March 16th op-ed titled “Don’t Feel Sorry for the Airlines,” business analyst Tim Wu argues that after years of multi-billion dollar profits, the airlines could have easily been in a position to survive the current reversal of fortunes. Instead, he says the airlines spent billions of dollars on stock buyback initiatives designed to inflate share prices all while soaking the flying public with increasingly insidious hidden fees.

“We cannot permit American and other airlines to use federal assistance, whether labeled a bailout or not, to weather the coronavirus crisis and then return to business as usual,” Wu writes. “Before providing any loan relief, tax breaks or cash transfers, we must demand that the airlines change how they treat their customers and employees and make basic changes in industry ownership structure.”

The Other Issue: Buybacks

Wu isn’t alone in his belief that any aid packages for the airline industry should come with very specific strings and consumer protection guarantees (including regulating seat size and capping ancillary fees). Several lawmakers, including former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, have indicated they will not support any bailout that does not put restrictions on stock buyback schemes and guarantees that workers will earn a living wage.

“Airline executives spent billions on stock buybacks and are now asking taxpayers for billions,” Senator Warren wrote in a March 17th Twitter post. “We need to help airline workers, but that money should come with serious long-term change to the companies—no more buybacks, a $15 minimum wage, and more.”

The airline industry, perhaps not surprisingly, insists that now is not the time to put onerous new restrictions and regulations on struggling carriers. The airlines say there is a much bigger issue to focus on right now rather than concerns over seat pitch and ancillary fees; officials point instead to the millions of workers who depend on airlines for their livelihoods.

“U.S. airlines are in continuous conversations with the Administration, Congress and labor unions in an effort to secure financial assistance from the federal government to protect and preserve the 750,000 jobs of hardworking men and women who are directly employed by U.S. airlines, as well the 10 million jobs supported by the airline industry,” A4A officials explained. “This includes pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, gate agents, ticket agents, parking attendants and many more. Our employees are truly the backbone of the U.S. airline industry and our greatest resource, and U.S. carriers are doing everything in their power to protect their livelihood.”

What changes would you like to see in the airline industry? Let us know in the comments section.

View Comments (72)

72 Comments

  1. rylan

    March 19, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Absolutely we as the flying taxpayers should get something back. Airlines have been shrinking seats and squishing pax together for years, and now they need a massive bailout from the same people they’ve been treating as sardines.

    I don’t like the idea of imposing artificially higher minimum wage regulations since we’ll just end up paying for that, but there does need to be some give back.

  2. ua1flyer

    March 19, 2020 at 8:52 pm

    The article mentions years of making billions ,but does not mention the years airlines were losing billions. As far as fees , the “menu type fees” were created by the industry to keep the prices of flights lower. I agree that the bailout/loans should come with some conditions. No bonuses, no stock buy backs, etc. As far as everything else, the market will settle those things. People will have to eventually choose what airline gives them the most bang for the buck.

  3. drvannostren

    March 20, 2020 at 12:08 am

    The problem here is that the airlines were allowed to simply get away with this in the first place. As each one made a move the others would copy to get to the lowest common denominator. The govt should’ve already had some regulations in place, like passenger rights.

    This is like me stealing from you repeatedly and after getting caught being told to return ONE of the items.

    I think we all know this bailout is gonna happen, fingers crossed in works well in our favor. I’m an airline worker, I hope everyone gets paid more, in most of the narrowbody cases it’s absolutely backbreaking labour, there’s no tips, there’s shitty conditions, there’s crap wages. I know if they bump it up fares will just be higher.

    Let’s see what happens, but I don’t really have a lot of faith in corporate America tbh.

  4. Gig103

    March 20, 2020 at 12:09 am

    Having been the beneficiary of EC261, I’d love to see a similar law here. The downgrade protection would be great too. In 2013 I’m still a little bitter AA downgraded me to coach and then said that since my discount F ticket was more than a Y ticket (day of inventory) I wasn’t entitled to a refund.

  5. dvs7310

    March 20, 2020 at 1:30 am

    Time to get rid of the YQ (Fuel Surcharge / Carrier Surcharge) and require them to file a fare that reflects what they really want to charge for the route. Several other countries already forbid this or severely limit it, perfect time for the US to be a leader and put their foot down on the deceptive practice too.

  6. fotographer

    March 20, 2020 at 4:13 am

    sorry when it quotes the NY times.. I stopped reading

  7. blarbie

    March 20, 2020 at 5:42 am

    Privatize the profits, socialize the losses. That’s the American way

  8. jjmoore

    March 20, 2020 at 6:22 am

    As long as our taxpayer $ are used to not only help the airline industry, but also the American people, that is what really matters. For example:

    1) Fair wages for the airline employees
    2) Absolutely NO share buybacks until the bailout money is either consumed in other forms of spending or it is paid back to the federal government.

    Imposing restrictions on the airlines to set limitations on seat pitch and other “consumer friendly” propositions… that is crossing a line. Let airlines have the liberty to do as they please, as this is part of creating a competitive environment between airlines. No government intervention needed in this respect.

    One more quick spin – any airline that wishes to receive a bailout must present its financials to the Senate in a public forum and justify in front of the American people as to why they need our assistance.

  9. edgewood49

    March 20, 2020 at 6:33 am

    Yes giving that we have a businessman in office we should and more than likely will take some form of ownership. Direct ownership is not the way to go too many unintended conciseness. I would amine debentures, or other financial instruments that the government when we get to the other side of this mess can be sold as not to disrupt the market. This is not the time for left wing radicals such as Warren to be spouting this rhetoric. If she does what she wants the businesses will fail or greatly shrink, so then tell me where are all the poor workforce has to go?

  10. zarkov505

    March 20, 2020 at 6:51 am

    Minimum seat width 18″, in accordance with the OLD British Admiralty standard on sailor’s minimum hammock width.

    Minimum seat pitch 36″, in accordance with longstanding industry practice up until very recently.

  11. Global321

    March 20, 2020 at 7:57 am

    Everyone does realize for much less than $50 billion, we could simply buy the top 5 US airlines and have working capital left over. (Their combined market cap is below that.)

    I am not saying we should, but, it would not be unreasonable to say if you want us to lend you money, we will, but it will be x% of your market cap lent and we get x% of equity. The more you borrow, the more we get. We can later sell our shares. And while some of Warren’s demands are ludicrous, others could be implemented – such as a freeze of exec pay until we are paid back.

  12. skidooman

    March 20, 2020 at 10:28 am

    I am with Global321.

    1- The US Treasury gets to be a shareholder, and intends to remain a shareholder for years. The goal is to get our money back in form of stock buybacks, dividends and stock divesture when the time is right. The more you need, the bigger the pie we own.

    That will perhaps make the airlines think twice before giving stock buybacks in time of plenty. Plan for the future or else the govt will own more of you!

    2- Freeze on exec pay. No bonus whatsoever, no enhanced retirement benefits. My company is now very unlikely to give any, why should we rescue fat cats that are already cashing in millions in pay? Sorry, everyone in the same boat, and the bigger your responsibilities the bigger the hair cut. Deal with it!

    They will leave? So what? Do you really think they are doing such a wonderful job? They aren’t.

    3- Do take another look at safety. I seriously doubt most of these planes can be safely evacuated in 90 seconds by real people in a stressful situation and not trained professionals. In Y, they are sardine cans. Put regulations in place. Yes, it will be more expensive to fly. But would you let car manufacturers remove seat belts and air bags to make cars less expensive? If not, why should it be different for an airline?

    4- Use the power of the shareholding position to claw back a bit on some of the most egregious practices. No more basic economy, no more $350 bucks to change tickets. Put the customer back in the front and center position. It will make the tickets more expensive? Not really: it will force airlines to cease to be deceptive. I mean, really, someone can go on the road for days and bring only a small purse? Give me a break: this is just a way to ambush you at the airport! No more gimmicks.

  13. AsiaTravel2019

    March 20, 2020 at 10:48 am

    I can’t believe I agree with Elizabeth Warren on anything, but she is right here.

    Before we the people cut any welfare checks, we should DEMAND concessions.

  14. kkua

    March 20, 2020 at 1:15 pm

    @dvs7310 I totally agree with you on abolishing that surcharge practice. That amount is untaxed and the airline will get 100% of the funds.

  15. BrunswickSq

    March 21, 2020 at 5:36 am

    Not really my issue yet but what we want is Equity. If they need a bailout it’s because the underlying company will be going bust. Shareholders and Bondholders have zero value in these companies now and thats what needs to be the quid pro quo.

  16. Marathon Man

    March 21, 2020 at 5:43 am

    I want EVERYTHING about flying including both onboard and the way miles and points were to be what it was like on September 10, 2001 with the exception of the fact airport security should be what it has the technology to do today and beyond BUT in an even better way that does not make people feel violated Or belittled.

  17. AJNEDC

    March 21, 2020 at 5:55 am

    Of course we should. My preference is not to bail out any businesses, but if we do, I want deeply discounted first class or business class tickets (90% discounts) to any destination, irrespective of the time I purchase the tickets.

  18. MaxLovesRio

    March 21, 2020 at 6:01 am

    No bailout. If they have spent their billions in stock buybacks, let them liquidate that stock first. They have totally abused the flying public and should not be rewarded with public funds. If they fail, then let the foreign airlines come in and take over and run things better.

  19. Gynob001

    March 21, 2020 at 6:02 am

    I would expect in return:
    1. Stable fares acros the board amongst AirLines for specific periods, e.g. 5 years. No tricks gimmics-Two classes, economy, and business. Airlines could compete with each other by providing amenities.
    2. Automated check-in. No gate agents. Emergency boarding crews who will assist if flights get cancelled etc.
    3. No extra fees for ridiculous things. If the flight is over 60 minutes, 4 hrs, 8 hrs or more, specific items list that will be provided to passengers.
    4. Clear policy for pets, overweight, sick passengers etc.

  20. taina2

    March 21, 2020 at 6:08 am

    Increase seat width to 18 and seat pitch to 36. End fees and require no seats more than 1 from the aisle.

  21. MusicCityIce

    March 21, 2020 at 6:18 am

    No stock buybacks.

    Consumer protection on airline-caused cancels & delays with required meaningful compensation. Similar to Europe.

    No fuel surcharges – embed in the price of a ticket.

    No seat fees – sure, you can only open up certain sections for your elites, but allow advance selection of seats for early bookers with a surcharge.

    No change fees, or perhaps a $50 max on change fees. It’s ridiculous that you have to throw away a $200 ticket when your plans change because of singnificant change fees.

  22. rkt10

    March 21, 2020 at 6:30 am

    It kinda gags me that Boeing will be getting a bailout, given the fact that much of their financial stress comes from the fallout from their 737 MAX fiasco. So after all is said and done, they will have rolled out a plane that wasn’t ready to fly, and the US taxpayer will shoulder the responsibility.
    I know, I know, we need a US airplane manufacturer to offset the dominance of Europe’s, but the fact is that these folks at Boeing are going to thrive when their real problems aren’t a consequence of the virus. Grrrr.

  23. DeltaFlyer123

    March 21, 2020 at 6:31 am

    The airline industry received a bailout after 9/11, so they flew empty airplanes which benefited no one. After 2008, they used their profits to buy back their stock, enriching their stockholder, mainly their top management.
    I think the form of the next bailout should be loans to see them through the crisis, which they will have to pay back from future profits, then vouchers to would-be travelers who could then convert them to airline tickets for which the government would pay. This way, the citizens who pay for the “bailout” through our taxes get free or discounted tickets in return. But no direct payment to airlines! We already know where those monies will go.

  24. air yahoo

    March 21, 2020 at 6:33 am

    The headline to this article is nonsensical. If we bail the airline industry out what we get in return is the ability for our nation’s air transit structure to return rapidly over the next couple of years. The “get” is that hotels., convention centers, restaurants, businesses, and tourist destination can rebuild their businesses. Without air travel, this doesn’t happen. That said, I do like the idea of requiring airlines to post transparent fares. That’s an easy demand and legislation was already written for it in 2014. The elimination of share buybacks also sounds reasonable.

  25. u600213

    March 21, 2020 at 6:38 am

    Serious: Agree with Elizabeth Warren
    Desirable: ban CRJ200 as human rights violation

  26. tkelvin69

    March 21, 2020 at 6:40 am

    For one, they should send planes to evacuate stranded citizens in other countries instead of grounding planes. I’m stuck in Peru and the only airlines attempting to help are Latam and Avianca.

  27. Kensterfly

    March 21, 2020 at 6:48 am

    What did we get out of the banking and savings and loan bailouts?
    What did we get out of the automobile manufacturing nail out?
    Nothing.

  28. jpr1953

    March 21, 2020 at 6:50 am

    United have several thousand of my $$ – I waited till I received emails saying my flights schedules have been changed – some leaving a few hours earlier than my schedule flights – and then I cancelled – I cancelled a Tkt to NZ on Thursday and the agent told me yes I would get a refund as the airline changed my schedule and not me….BUT today I got 2 emails from United which simply said – sorry – we get to keep your money for a year ….so they can change my schedule with no consequence? As a taxpayer, before they get a dime, they need to do the right thing by their staff and customers….

    finally, since I have already cancelled 6 meetings this year and more to come, I probably will have the option of moving my allegiance to any airline – so United – after 40 years on your airline, I might finally make that break…

    I understand that maintaining expensive infrastructure is critical, but if we bail them out, their should be strict controls……OH yeah I forgot who is in charge of the rules….a guy who had his own university….

  29. flyshooter

    March 21, 2020 at 6:53 am

    Really? This is the time for people to sit in their comfy recliners and bitch about Airlines? I look forward to big mouth Elizabeth Warren creating her own airline since she thinks it’s so easy to operate. What a disgusting human being she is. I’ll only have gratitude for all IF we can ever return to what was.

  30. temecularedwing

    March 21, 2020 at 6:54 am

    I’m fine with a bailout as long as 1) no stock buybacks for 10 years, 2) end change fees, 3) end baggage fees. If they won’t agree to these simple terms, screw ’em. Leave them to market forces.

  31. leftcoasttrav

    March 21, 2020 at 7:06 am

    Not only suspend stock buybacks until Government loans repaid, but modify rules on Executive compensation, so that stock option repricing tactics are disallowed.
    No grants except those going directly into the pockets of lower paid workers bearing the brunt of the current crisis.
    Roll all surcharges into regular pricing and eliminate fake fees for changes/cancellations.
    Emulate European passenger rights to compensation for poor service issues .

  32. TarHeelRedSoxFan

    March 21, 2020 at 7:19 am

    1) Similar to automotive bailout, US govt gets shares, No stock buybacks with bailout money until shares are recovered
    2) Capped/Frozen executive compensation until loan is paid back/shares are redeemed.
    3) EC261-like regulation
    4) Worker compensation protection
    5) Get rid of surcharges. Force these into taxable ticket prices.

  33. OZFLYER86

    March 21, 2020 at 7:21 am

    the only bailout the 2 major australian airlines are getting right now are removal of excise(tax) on fuel & ATC charges, so airlines only save if they fly.

    No money should be given to any airlines ever, esp after all the very dodgy bank bailouts after the USA banks caused the massive worldwide GFC with their dodgy sub prime loans.

  34. OZFLYER86

    March 21, 2020 at 7:24 am

    rylan

    airlines haven’t been shrinking seats at all on most of the worlds narrowbody fleet. If anything seats have got marginally wider due to armrests getting slightly narrower.

    Americans like Australians are getting fatter, a lot fatter & need to lose weight or diabetes type 2, is just around the corner.

  35. ND Sol

    March 21, 2020 at 7:33 am

    If you want to prohibit stock buybacks, then what do you feel about dividends? Unlike the 2008-9 economic downturn, this is solely due to the Wuhan virus and governments’ actions that have impacted the travel industry. These airlines are public companies, so you can review their financials and other filings at http://www.sec.gov

  36. cyclefanatic83

    March 21, 2020 at 7:47 am

    @skidooman – YES! 100% on safety. An overweight, aging population in the U.S. (at the minimum) from the baby boom is NOT able to get out of a plane in an emergency. When 10-20 wheelchair passengers are escorted onto every flight in/out of Florida, it’s a recipe for disaster even WITH fewer seats and more space.

    “More expensive to XYZ..” is always the boogeyman excuse that people freak out about. So it’s more expensive to fly, but people fly less. Fewer idiotic trips for one night across 4 time zones for a meeting. Just do it virtually. Businesses should stop feeding the addict (airline, travel industry) with soul-crushing travel to begin with. Keep their employees happier and make airlines (and hotels, etc) truly VALUE the customer than simply RELY on (expect?) the customer to always be there.

  37. D2travel

    March 21, 2020 at 7:56 am

    How about eliminating baggage fees unless you go over two. Business travelers don’t care about these fees, since the company is picking up the tab. Regular vacation travelers should NOT have to pay to take clothes with them, it’s just plain ridiculous.

  38. socalduck

    socalduck

    March 21, 2020 at 7:58 am

    I’m not a fan of legislating pax ex (the market can do this), but protections akin to EC261 seems warranted.

  39. chrisbarlow

    March 21, 2020 at 8:02 am

    Any bailout should be as debt that is repaid from first cash flow with high interest rate.

  40. Roadrunner2

    March 21, 2020 at 8:02 am

    Time to demand changes in seating — minimum seat pitch 35″ and seat width 20″. There is absolutely no reason why the American public should fly crammed in like sardines. Stop the airlines from their secret 90 second evacuation tests.

  41. RGS5526

    March 21, 2020 at 8:15 am

    If an executive bonus is a given number of shares in the company, then the number should be reduced in proportion when the company buys back its own shares. If an award is based on share price, then the required level should be raised in proportion whenever shares are bought back

    Don’t give the bosses more of the company just because they artificially raise the share price.

  42. PapaJack

    March 21, 2020 at 8:24 am

    When the airlines plead, “now is not the time for regulations” it reminds me of the NRA/paid Senator’s response after a mass shooting and people calling for background checks on all gun buyers, but I digress.

    This needs to be handled like Shark Tank. No seriously, in return for a bailout, you have to give the govt. X% in the company, and an option to buy out the govt. can be offered without Y years. As a shareholder then, the govt. can vote on the payments made to all employees from ground crew to flight folk to CEO’s and everyone inbetween. Do it properly. Of course that’s in a Utopian world, but I try…

  43. mykeeb33

    March 21, 2020 at 8:24 am

    1 bag should be free
    $20 cap on change fees
    Eliminate supersaver fares
    More legroom. Take out 2 or 3 rows of seats.

  44. mbl

    March 21, 2020 at 8:26 am

    I agree with Global i321 and skidooman. The bailout of our airlines should be looked at as a business proposition in much the same way Warren Buffett looked at the bailouts of Goldman-Sachs, GE et al and the way he looked at putting up a huge chunk of money to help Occidental buy Anadarko. Not only did Berkshire-Hathaway get preferred stock with something like an 8% dividend but it also got the rights to convert that stock to common stock at a discounted cost and to buy a chunk of common stock at a greatly reduced price. This is how business is done. Unfortunately I doubt that we can trust the senators and congressmen that will have a hand in crafting this bailout to put the taxpayer and the flying U.S. citizens interests first, above their own. After all, the taxpayers have no lobbyists to grease the skids and funnel all those airline perks and cash to the pockets of our “legislators.”

  45. AArlington

    March 21, 2020 at 8:34 am

    No bailout without minimum seat width and legroom provisions.

  46. pentiumii

    March 21, 2020 at 9:15 am

    Going back as far as 911, I always believed that rather than just writing checks to the airlines, they should have helped the entire travel industry by using the same federal money to create a fund to be used by travellers to buy airline tickets, hotel rooms and whatever tourism and business travel expense that the industry depends upon. Getting the people back out there spending money seems far better than just handing Parker billions of dollars to continue to screw the passengers. So, rather than even face the scrutiny of ‘bailouts’, the airlines need to be giving back. Stop baggage fees, stop cancellation and change fees and if possible then let people change the names on their tickets so that air travel is a commodity rather than a completely restrictive contract that is only enforceable on one side, the airlines. I am disgusted with the decline in my passenger experience in the last few years and I am happy to see AA go under. They deserve nothing and I won’t miss them as they take my million miles and elite status with them.

  47. feeknicks

    March 21, 2020 at 9:16 am

    Agree with Global321, let’s get a finger in this pie.

  48. nosecohn

    March 21, 2020 at 9:20 am

    The model for this bailout should be what we did with GM during the last financial crisis. Taxpayers infused cash in exchange for a majority share of the company. The government then had enough control to implement desired changes, including replacing the CEO. When GM recovered, the government sold its interest at a profit and the company was saved, along with many jobs. There’s no reason we can’t do something similar with those airlines who haven’t implemented a strong enough contingency plan to weather this storm with minimal government assistance.

  49. randysea

    March 21, 2020 at 9:41 am

    Before we create more deficits bailing out the airlines, we should be spending our taxpayer money on public safety and health care.

    During WW2, we had a massive program to build military planes and such. How about a massive increase in manufacturing oxygen machines and ventilators before we talk about deals with airlines for better seats or lower charges for flying? Dead people don’t buy airline tickets.

  50. Whichway

    March 21, 2020 at 9:53 am

    NO BAILOUT–BANKRUPTCY IS THE ANSWER. The problem is not aircraft, the problem is people. Specifically the Board of Directors and top management cannot be left in place. They burned the money up on buybacks to make the stock price go higher and make their options worth more, while weakening the financial structure of their companies. They have to GO. A pre-packaged bankruptcy doesn’t hurt the public. Instead the common stock becomes worthless and the bondholders and banks are compromised for their poor judgement in lending to reckless, greedy managers. The airlines are recapitalized with new common stock shareholders and life goes on with different management, a different board, and an improved capital structure.
    Tinkering around the edges with nuisance baggage fees doesn’t solve anything. The same failed people will be in charge.

  51. bigislanddave

    March 21, 2020 at 10:58 am

    The airlines must provide all seats have a minimum of 34″ pitch.

    The airlines must provide a minimum of 2 checked bags (50 pounds each) per passenger at no charge.

    The airline will automatically pay the passenger $1000 for any checked bag delayed or lost, in addition to 100% of the stated value of the bag and its contents.

    The airlines must refund all tickets 100% with no fees if the passenger requests it at any time. This includes tickets paid for with “miles”.

    The airline will automatically refund the ticket price and $1000. for any airline cancelled flight.

    The airlines must provide at no cost one hotel room per passenger for any flight delayed for any reason in any city not at the passengers final destination if the delay is after 10 PM local time. The hotel must not be more than 1 mile from the entrance to the airport where the delay is at. The airline must pay for transportation to that hotel and the passenger must arrive not more than 1 hour after the arrival at the gate in the delay city.

    The airline must Pay each passenger automatically (that is without the passenger having to request it) $1500. if the arrival time at the passengers final destination is more than 4 hours delayed for any reason.

    All passengers must be given a pillow and blanket.

    No extra fees required for any form of boarding pass.

    The airline must accept as payment for any posted fare the amount of its frequent flier miles as cash equivalent at the rate of $.02
    per mile.

  52. equals42

    March 21, 2020 at 10:58 am

    I wish folks wouldn’t get too political here but then again we’ve heard the gripes in every airline club bar about FoxNews/CNN/etc on the bar TV so I’m not surprised.

    I don’t think the airlines have treated any of us fairly over the years with surcharges, stupid fees, loss of status, etc. All the while, they were loading up on debt and buying back shares to pump up their executive pay in options and such. It’s a good example where agency theory doesn’t help stakeholders in the long run if the stupid actions are benefitting both the shareholders and managers. Anyway…

    Let’s get large ownership positions as of now with govt cash injections. Would Warren Buffett accept anything less? The Treasury will have seats on the board until we can be paid back and the shares repurchased. The shares should be preferred and a protected class so bankruptcy isn’t really a problem for taxpayers.

    European-style passenger rights. Easy to do. Copy the regs from the EU almost word-for-word.

    Mandate flat “Southwest” pricing of some sort. No hidden garbage. What you see is the price instead of gaming the search engines. Check a bag for free, bring one bag onboard, etc. If you have assigned seating, that’s the airlines problem to deal with – not charging people to pick the dumb seat.

    Reasonable rules on seat width, leg room, and pitch. If everyone has to have the same minimum that we can all live with, the market can take care of the rest. Complaints about the price will go up fall flat for me. Flying doesn’t have to be super cheap. No one HAS to fly to Orlando. It needs to be safe and humane though.

    The airlines want free markets and no regulation but then want handouts all the time in the form of bailouts and bankruptcy courts. Airlines other than Southwest have never really been a profitable business but the execs keep going at the same model and expecting us to help them in between making millions in the boom periods. Perhaps they should fold. They let TWA and PanAm fail. (I miss them.). Why should the remaining dinosaurs be kept afloat forever?

  53. SoydeSD

    March 21, 2020 at 11:20 am

    Add 2″ to legroom, bring back free in-flight refreshments, and 2 free checked bags per passenger and I’m good.

  54. appletreasures

    March 21, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    This concept can be applied to most industries.
    Industries MAY need to survive but every individual company does NOT.
    When my defense industry job (of 15 years) was downsized and moved to another state, I was forced to adjust.
    I got a job in telecommunication industry.

    1) Why are there so many airlines? It must be a very profitable business.
    2) When Airlines file bankruptcy, who will be hurt? Investors, workers, banks
    3) Those who got most of the benefits of “good business” years without feeling the real pain ( and permanent givebacks) of of “bad business” years will have to downsize (a lot).
    4) Bail out workers based loosely upon lost wages (capped in some way).
    5) Perhaps based upon some multiple of poverty level (i.e. if a family of 5 is expected to be able to live on under $60,000, then a family of 2 should be expected to be able to live on $200,000),
    6) Surviving airlines will likely buy “Assets” of failed airlines that have any true value.
    7) Workers harmed by bankruptcy will use their bailout to survive while seeking work with expanding surviving airlines (or change careers).

  55. Koco

    March 21, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    I totally agree with Elizabeth Warren…. and why in the world should we bail them out… Can they shrink the seats even more they would do it. Can the charge us more for luggage they would not hesitate to do it. They were making billions of $$ and now us the taxpayers, yes us the nice American taxpayers with deep pockets once again would bail them out. I say NO unless something changes.

  56. BC Shelby

    March 21, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    …one condition should be to permanently do away with the damned luggage fees after his is through. This would solve three issues, higher cost of travel, longer inspection times at security checkpoints for carry ons, and people trying to stuff large/heavy carry ons in overhead bins.

  57. OZFLYER86

    March 21, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    zarkov505

    your statements

    “Minimum seat width 18″, in accordance with the OLD British Admiralty standard on sailor’s minimum hammock width.
    Minimum seat pitch 36″, in accordance with longstanding industry practice up until very recently.”

    are irrelevent because, seat width on all boeing 737s & 757s & all airbus A319/20/21 aircraft hasn’t chnaged 1 mm. Only with some A330s & some B777/787s have some mostly low cost airlines, gone for an extra seat across aircraft.

    You obviously don’t understand seat pitch. Many airlines have put more seats on aircraft, without any changes to legroom, by installing ultra slimback seats. It’s all about the thickness of seat backs. Seat pitch is nto a measure of legroom, but a measurement of 1 point on a seat to same point on seat behind or in front.

    Slimline seat backs mean legroom can be increased dramatically, if seat pitch isn’t changed.

  58. diver858

    March 21, 2020 at 6:33 pm

    Airlines give the flying public what they want, most people prefer low price over comfort and convenience. For example: US Carriers would be more than happy to add more Y+ to their domestic narrow body fleet if people were willing to pay the price. From this perspective, it is unrealistic to mandate, regulate seat pitch, size when the consumer is unwilling to pay for it.
    On the flip side, stock buybacks, general failure to plan for the inevitable economic downturn falls squarely on the shoulders of the airline BODs, CEOs. Any bailout must include provisions to limit their compensation, prevent shareholder giveaways until loans are paid back with interest, provisions are established to reduce debt, liquidity requirements – similar to those for banks.

  59. BMGRAHAM

    March 21, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    This has an obvious answer. If we bail them out then we get to continue to fly with our favorite airlines after this crisis, as well as continuing to be able to obsess about upgrades, points and status.

    This is a great time for us all to detox.

  60. GeauxTigersGeaux

    March 21, 2020 at 9:49 pm

    No, full stop. If they’re not profitable flying the routes they were before Special Flu, it’s not my job to subsidize it. If UA makes more money flying IAH-Bogata than they do IAH-Medellin, I expect the Bogota route to come back first. Does anyone really have an objection to prioritization?

    Unemployment insurance is a state responsibility, and paid by taxes paid by the worker and the employer to their resident state for the precise purpose of providing the “buffer” should a person be fired. It’s super awesome when my 120k+ wife got laid off in 2009 and got unemployment of ~$1200 a month (it’s capped). The repeated stories of FA’s (and almost everyone else) is that they make far less, so if they make jack squat, they’re pretty close to what unemployment in TX provides. I’m not dumping on the FAs or employees, but we have to be realistic. One of my pals from ROTC flew F-18s for the USMC for six years, and had to sleep on people’s couches after he transitioned to cargo out of Dallas. Nobody cared, and he didn’t ask for a bailout.

    And no, the federal government does not need to have ANY stake in any commercial airline. If it’s such a good idea, why hasn’t the state of Georgia bought shares in Delta?

    The airline problem will fix itself.

    You guys needs to separate what you want from airlines (seat size, etc.) from the basic problem, which is should a government own a share of an airline? Otherwise, you’re acting as if there is a “trade” possible. There is no way, no how, the federal gov needs to be giving almost anything to airlines. That sure seems to work out well for Etihad, Al Italia, South African Airways, etc. /sarcasm.

  61. nusiax

    March 22, 2020 at 1:50 am

    My Opinion is let them fail. In a capitalist economy only the truly strong should survive. This will allow new better airlines to reach we from the ashes. Nothing will change until the old burns to the ground

  62. hammie

    March 22, 2020 at 7:21 am

    In total agreement with @nosecohn, any bailout should be like the one done with GM.

    But what is really shocking and eye opening is reading some of the comments here. Regulating seat width, pitch, baggage charges, cancellation fees, 90% discount on first and business class……it’s no wonder Elizabeth Warren and Bernie got traction in the primaries.

    A bailout is not socialist, having a healthy airline industry is a key component of a thriving economy. If the treasury gets shares or repayment for loans, it’s a good investment for the overall economy.

  63. Marathon Man

    March 22, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    I posted earlier that everything should be like it was pre 9/11

    Of course technology should be upgraded in planes and hey, if doable, why not use this time to refit all planes!

  64. Erik J

    March 22, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    I’m curious as to just what the airlines would do with this bailout money.
    Airlines have done well over the past ten years, where did the money go? In addition, airlines continue to operate even when they are in bankruptcy and/or have lost millions. Why is this different?
    Aren’t these the same companies that were found guilty of prIce fixing several years ago?
    I’m tired of the fees and cost cutting that has made flying an increasingly unpleasant experience.
    I feel sorry for the flight attendants, etc. who will bear the brunt of a downturn in the industry. The executives who brought this on themselves should be replaced – no golden parachutes.
    As far as expecting something in return for a bailout, I’d like to see no more exemptions from anti-trust laws and the domestic market is no longer protected from outside competition.

  65. fracyd

    March 22, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    As passengers, this will probably be THE ONLY OPPORTUNITY we have for many years to have a say in the future of customer service in the airline industry. I totally agree that if we the taxpayers and traveling public are stuck with bailing out the very industry that has treated us so badly in recent years, the bailout should be contingent on some basic changes that are long overdue.
    First and foremost, quit nickel and diming us to death! The fare for a ticket should include a seat and a carry-on at the very least. Do away with the complex, idiotic seat pricing system. It’s just plain greed-based.
    Secondly, quit trying to squeeze as many coach passengers into your airplanes as possible by shrinking our seats.
    And lastly, treat us with respect. It is because of us that you have a paycheck. It’s a given that all of us passengers should also treat you with the respect you deserve.

  66. Erik J

    March 23, 2020 at 12:36 am

    For frarcyd
    Well said, you are one voice Among many…

  67. ckfred

    March 23, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    My issue with demanding that airlines, or any business that gets a bailout, be prohibited from buying back is that it’s often shareholders that demand buybacks. There are activist shareholders, including Carl Icahn and Norman Peltz, who want buybacks, in order to make their holdings more valuable. You get pension funds, mutual funds, and private equity groups doing the same. Perhaps we need to create some consequences for shareholders who want buybacks, rather than punish companies for bowing to the will of their owners.

    Warren Buffet said at the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting that the company is doing very limited share buybacks because stocks have become so overpriced. The only value they can create for shareholders is to reduce the amount of outstanding shares. Considering the current state of the market, I’m sure the Oracle of Omaha is now looking at buying some large positions.

    As to the airlines, I would like to see the following:

    A. A free checked bag. Free checked bags would reduce the amount of baggage that is screened at security and stowed in aircraft cabins. It would speed up security screenings and make for easier boarding processes. It would also reduce the amount of items that passengers would try to carry along, in the case of an emergency evacuation.

    B. Enough with the priority seating. It’s one thing to charge for extra space in the front of the cabin. But to charge extra for an aisle seat 2/3rds of the way back is annoying.

    C. Uniformity of IFE. Right now, American has 737s with three different entertainment set-ups. In-seat audio with drop-down screens, seat-back entertainment, and Wi-Fi only. The A321 fleet has seat-back entertainment or Wi-Fi. If you don’t know what the set-up is for your plane, you risk having to watch movies or sports on a tiny phone, rather than a bigger tablet. Or, if the plane has only Wi-Fi, you might have wished you bought a book, magazine, or newspaper at the airport.

    D. USB ports for every seat. American’s fleet of A321’s that it inherited from US Airways have no USB ports or traditional plugs in any of the seats. For a one-hour flight, it’s probably no big deal. But for longer flights, you risk running down your phone, tablet, or laptop.

    E. Decent amounts of legroom. You can’t widen a 737. But, a person who is 5’6″ shouldn’t have his knees jammed against the seat in front of him.

  68. glob99

    March 23, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    When “we” bailed out the banks, we got <1% interest on savings, 30% APR on CC, and higher fees. Then the CEOs got huge bonuses.

    History is going to repeat, just this time with the airlines.

  69. Howard

    March 23, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    If we bail them out, I think both change fees and seat pitch should be regulated.

    For change fees, I’d say $0 for changes made more than 60 days before departure. There’s simply no justification for a change fee when the change is made that far in advance. Within 60 days, I’d allow maybe $50. The current $200 fee assessed by most major US carriers is egregious. There’s also a public health argument, by the way. If someone is sick, even if it’s not during a pandemic, it should be easy for them to change their plans. We don’t want people to fly when they’re sick just to avoid a $200 change fee.

    For seat pitch, I’d say the requirement should be somewhere in the 32″-35″ range. We currently have carriers with 29″, and that practice should be banned.

  70. o mikros

    March 24, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    A very small concession that I hope gets packaged into this: fee-free family seating

    I don’t care if it’s in the last row with no recline, or if the lav is nearby, but I would like to know that if I fly with my 3-year-old that we can sit together.

  71. bwallet

    March 25, 2020 at 5:47 am

    Call me crazy, but I think what we get as American taxpayers is a functional airline industry. If we don’t do something, we may lose many or even most if not all of our airlines. That would reduce competition and complicate all of the things that people are unhappy about. Unhappy that an airline has 29″ seat pitch? Fly a different airline. Want bigger seats? Buy first class tickets. Want more bags? Pay for them. Why should I pay a higher ticket price so that you can get two bags for free. We get what we pay for, and the public has, by its own choices, designed our airlines.

  72. skidooman

    March 25, 2020 at 11:23 am

    @bwallet:

    Just because the market has created the airlines as is doesn’t mean we are not in front of a market failure.

    Market failures are created when far-from-ideal outcomes occur from a market operating under a certain set of regulations. All markets have regulations, spelled out or otherwise, if only the law of contracts and criminal laws against theft. These are decided by the state, and private operators react accordingly.

    Just consider what would happen if we were to tell coal-fired power plants they no longer needed to care about streams and rivers.

    Here, the airlines, operating under the current set of regulations, have generated planes that are far, far too loaded for safe operation in emergencies. That is what the current regulation framework brought us. It is not optimal, no more than letting car manufacturers not include seat belts or airbags to save on cost, banking for the customers to go without in exchange for a better price.

    The current regulation framework also created an oligopoly that is far from operating like a perfectly competitive market. In fact, we got “innovations” like basic economy and fees that have exploited the differential in information available to different stakeholders to fool clients. Sure, we are frequent fliers, we know better than to fly Spirit and be asked to pay all bags etc. Not everyone is the same, obviously.

    Ensuring a common standard ensures these kinds of sub-optimal outcomes go away.

    And no, I am not saying “kill all innovation”. I am voting for smart regulations, enough so the companies have the incentive to properly serve their customers in a safe and non-predatory manner.

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