The Wasteful Skies
Airlines are cheating their customers and overpolluting the atmosphere
The airlines' system of cartels, or as they call them, "alliances", leads to millions of unnecessary passenger miles flown every day, needlessly polluting the skies while adding to global heating, reducing competition, and inconveniencing passengers. The travelers pay higher prices and suffer longer, more tortuous flights; the airlines rake it in. Airline regulation, both national and international, must be changed to require industry-wide cooperation in ticketing and baggage handling, reversing the exclusions brought on by the alliance system.
I'm writing about a global problem, but let's personalize it:
H. Paul Lillebo
Those of us who of necessity do some regular air travel know the frustration of finding tickets. Let's say you have a trip to Europe. Unless you live in a large city and are going to a major city overseas, the trip will require three separate legs: the first from your mid-sized city to a big city (an airline "hub") where you can catch your international flight to a major European city, and then at the end a flight from the big city where you land to the smaller city where you're actually going. The two major cities that define your transoceanic leg will reasonably be restricted to those that have direct flights to your departure and arrival towns. So now you're set: you pick the major cities with the right connections, and you're ready to order your ticket.
But not so fast. The route you've chosen as the most direct and convenient is unavailable. It doesn't come up in your online searches, even though there are planes departing at perfect times. The bugaboo is the airline "alliance" system, in effect a system of cartels, where the airlines belonging to one alliance refuse to cooperate in ticketing and baggage handling with airlines belonging to another alliance. So even though the perfect connection exists, no one can sell you a ticket for that combination of flights. Those particular airlines aren't talking to one another, and you'll suffer for it. In order to take advantage of your perfect route, you would have to buy separate tickets for each leg, and pick up your checked baggage at each transfer point and recheck it with the next airline, going out and back in through security at each stop. And since the airlines don't cooperate with each other, if your first flight is delayed so that you miss your connection, you'll be out of luck with your next tickets. The airlines handling your second and third leg would have no obligation to honor your ticket on a later flight.
Three airline alliances dominate the market, with the three major US airlines spread among the three:
STAR alliance includes United Airlines along with international partners Lufthansa, Air Canada, Air China, Swiss, Scandinavian, and about 20 others.
SkyTeam alliance includes Delta, with partners Air France, KLM, Aeroflot, Aeromexico, China Eastern and about a dozen more.
OneWorld alliance includes American, with partners British Airways, Quantas, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Quatar Airways, and several others.
So you discover that the perfect flight you have found is an impossibility because United refuses to cooperate with Air France, which in turn doesn't cooperate with Iberia, and you're offered something less convenient in order to stay within the same alliance. This often means that you will triangulate to major hubs that are far from your most direct route, or be given connections that waste your time sitting extra hours in airports. The bottom line is that you are precluded from choosing the most convenient and efficient combination of flights, the one that gets you to your destination quickest and with the least CO2 pollution of the atmosphere.
Quite apart from the inconvenience and extra cost to the passenger – though that is not trivial, in these days when we find ourselves with a critical need to reduce CO2 releases to the atmosphere, an industry arrangement that requires travelers to travel farther than necessary, to spend more time in the air and uselessly cause added pollution, cannot be allowed to continue.
The "alliance" system of airline cartels may be a profitable way for airlines to fight one another for the available passenger dollars, but it is both an environmental disaster and a passenger ripoff. It is inefficient and wasteful, and it must be changed. The needed reform must result in a universal system of ticketing and baggage handling, in which all passenger carriers must participate. This is perfectly doable, it's not even difficult. Let the airlines keep their alliances for the purpose of passenger loyalty programs, but if they are going to make use of public airports and public safety and traffic-handling systems they must be able to ticket travelers and their baggage through to their destination in the most efficient manner. If they can't, they need to leave the field to those who can.
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The Scourge of Tourism
If you're a tourist, don't be.
Nothing is more needlessly damaging to our fight against catastrophic climate change than the massive number of tourists traveling the world in airplanes, cruise ships, buses, and cars for pure amusement, adding literally billions of tons of extra carbon dioxide releases to the atmosphere. Tourism should be an immediate casualty of our war against climate change. So why is the United Nations still promoting tourism?
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Democracy aa Populism aa Demagoguery?
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