My past columns have stirred strong feelings among travelers. Whether you think, as one writer states, I'm "full of caca" or I am intelligently stating a case, it's good to have something to think about. My objective is to promote a clearer way of thinking about travel.
Just read your column and laughed all the way through it. That was your intention, right? A little tongue-in-cheek? You and I both know that if a Southwest fare is not competitive (like the two you carefully picked) it's because Southwest is at near full capacity and the other airline is staring at 80 empty seats.
The government is not going to be willing to prop the shrinking six up for much longer, given the strong bookings and the growing profit margins of the discounters. I have a friendly bet going with another frequent flyer that US Airways is gone before Christmas. He really likes first class too, so I told him to get used to flying first class on America West. United - look out below.
- Tom

Tom, let me set the record straight for you. Low-fare airlines do not offer the lowest fares. Over the past two weeks I have been on five round-trip flights. By booking my flights directly on one of the three top airlines, I saved $23, $25, $9, $13, and $7 respectfully over the lowest fares available on Southwest. In addition, while I had a direct flight in most cases, Southwest made at least one-stop in all cases. Into the bargain, on every flight segment I was upgraded to first class.
As far as the government bailing out the major carriers - it isn't.
The ATSB has issued six loan guarantees totaling $1.56 billion.
Frontier Airlines - $63 million
World Airways - $27 million
US Airways - $900 million
Aloha Airlines - $40.5 million
American Trans Air - $148.5 million
America West Airlines - $380 million
This list of airlines receiving loan guarantees hardly seems to be a compilation of network carriers.
By the way, recently United Airlines was denied a $1.6 billion loan guarantee.
I know not everyone shares my value system, but I'm willing to pay more for better airline service, and that includes the FF program. I take maybe 30-40 round trips a year on AA, I've flown about 4M miles on AA, and I can't think of a time in the last 15 years when AA has not upgraded me to first. I don't want to pay more than I have to, but I frequently pay 50-100% more to fly AA than ATA or Southwest or Continental or whoever. Comfort is more important to me than price.
Why is this so hard for some people to understand? Why doesn't everyone buy Yugos, why does Lexus stay in business?
- Doug

Luxury has different meaning to different people - a lot of travelers have recently been telling me that the most luxurious place they can travel to is somewhere without cell phone coverage.
I agree that value of comfort ranks high.
I read your June 6 column on low cost airlines with great interest. Many of the writers today seem to wax poetic about "low cost" airlines. You aptly discussed the other side of the coin! I am very price-driven in my selection of which airline to fly, and depending on circumstances, like you I find that the majors will often beat the fares for their low cost brethren. But don't forget the reason for this is the very being of the low cost airlines!
Without Southwest and Jet Blue, I shudder to think how high the fares would be today. The majors have to stay competitive because of the price standards set by Southwest et al. And this works to all our advantage.
Funny how like you, I still find myself flying the majors more often than the low-cost airlines, but I am always thankful for the Jet Blues of the world for giving us that choice.
Great column, and thanks for listening.
You're right, we can be thankful for a competitive marketplace and those zealots who through their inconvenience, hassles and added stress are subsidizing our comfort and convenience.
You're half right. The large carriers serve a very important function of having substantially more coverage than the low-cost carriers. For all the hype, low cost carriers, except perhaps Southwest, have very limited routes.
Take JetBlue. I live in San Jose. To take JetBlue from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, probably the busiest business route for West Coast business people, entails a 50-mile drive to Oakland, fly to Long Beach, drive 30 miles to Los Angeles. That's an additional 80 miles each way for a such a common route.
American Airlines flies out of San Francisco, and San Jose to Los Angeles.
Similarly, American has a first class which a large person like myself appreciates as well as the Admiral's Club - large seats and couches.
You're mostly wrong regarding the plane issue. In many markets, the larger carriers use small one-size, one-class regional jets. My route of SJC-LAX is one such route. The Super-80's and 737-800 by American were replaced and moved to other routes. We now have little American Eagle crop-dusters which among other things require that at LAX we land at the remote terminal and be bused to the main terminal. It's not bad on the incoming trip, but leaving LAX, you must factor that additional trip into your arrival time at LAX. Just my thoughts.
- Carver

You make an excellent point regarding regional jets on short air-routes.
Although not fallible, the convenience and added value such as the Admiral's club, that comes from developing loyal relationships with the larger airlines outweighs the occasional inconveniences. Far too often consumers take a shortsighted approach towards their travel purchases failing to realize the long term benefits by pursuing a smart travel strategy.
If you will pardon my French, you're full of caca.
I, too, am a "road warrior", traveling 40 to 48 weeks of the year. AND, the big airlines just haven't gotten it and never will.
As an aside, which of the big ones do you work for???
- Dennis

I don't know French, although I do know travel. I recommend that you take a closer look at what I wrote...you should then see the inherent wisdom.
Incidentally, I don't work for any airline - I just know how to travel.
You failed to point out that those cheap fares on the big ole airlines simply would not be around IF the low fare guys were not around. Period, end of story.
By the way, which major airline do you or did you work for?
- Larry

You failed to read the story.
I clearly write that low air fares are directly correlated to the existence of economy carriers. This does not mean that I have to give up preferential service and fly them. But thank you for flying them. You're keeping the fares low for me and readers of my book, while we're in first class.
I have to say I that I have never read as ill-formed and simply inaccurate story as your column on JetBlue versus American Airlines. It is so wrong, in fact, that I have copied the editor of the website where your column appeared because he or she should be aware of how little you know about airlines.
For starters, you seem not to know the most basic fact of all: JetBlue did not "encroach" on American Airlines on the New York-Long Beach route.
JetBlue pioneered that route and American Airlines started service after as a way to try to harass JetBlue. So your entire point is totally destroyed since you don't know that. There's be no nonstop flights between New York and Long Beach AT ANY PRICE if it weren't for JetBlue launching the service in the first place. And I doubt American will be at Long Beach for long. It already dropped flights to Oakland and never even launched flights to Ontario. If you want to fly those routes nonstop from JFK, you have to fly JetBlue because American dropped its competitive flights, which were ALL launched AFTER JetBlue pioneered the routes.
You are a sad excuse for a columnist.
- Elizabeth

JetBlue has not pioneered anything. I hope you don't think that JetBlue is the first airline to fly into Long Beach from the East Coast.
They offer a decent product but certainly as I have noted they have their shortcomings.
My column was in reference to how the majors matched the fares of so-called economy carriers. As illustrated with the JFK to LGB route-nothing about encroaching.
I suspect if you consolidated your travel purchasing to one airline and reap the benefits of loyalty you might not be so cranky.
It's OK to critique me, just get your facts right.
Interesting column and undeniable. But you do not mention the long-term downside of patronizing the old-line airlines when low-fare pretty-good-service airlines come to town. The old-line airlines are reducing their fares only on competitive routes, and only as long as necessary. It's just a temporary marketing strategy. If they succeed in driving the newcomer out of town, the fares and their many hostile restrictions will return.
- Eric

Not to worry, there will always be a steady flock willing to fly the economy carriers. Part of it is ignorance - many travelers simply do not know that you get better value with the legacy carriers. A signed copy of The Penny Pincher's Passport to Luxury Travel will be on its way to you.
Your article is shows how shortsighted many passengers are. It is exactly why in years past, so many low-fare carriers went bust. Thankfully, folks are waking up to this and forgoing the miles and perks. Otherwise, as you are aware, those low fares ALWAYS disappear when the big guys run the little guys out of a market. As for me, I make it a point to fly whoever was first with a low fare or sale. Period.
- Larry

It's good to see that you have loyalty towards a carrier. Value has different meaning to different people.
Travel providers - airlines included - are a business. It is naive to think that any business is not going to seek competitive advantage, market-share, and if possible pricing power. Yes, left unfretted airlines, hoteliers, cruises lines, any business model will charge the highest sustainable price. That is the basics of a free and competitive market. Fortunately, open markets promote competition, which the economy carriers represent in the airline industry.
The result of economy carriers are lower airfares across the board - not only with economy carriers. It has also forced the majors into a new strategic transformation that eventually will supersede the business models of the economy carriers because unlike the economy carriers the majors will create added value.

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