Friday, March 13, 2015

Opinion: Airborne or grounded

by Ejvind Sandal

At Copenhagen Airport, there are a remarkable number of vacant parking lots – all of course due to the ongoing labor conflict between Norwegian and its pilots. 

Get used to it! 

The dispute swiftly followed a strike by SAS crews after they were transferred to Cimber Air – a discount carrier they claim – and will no doubt be followed by more action when Ryanair tries to establish a hub in Copenhagen without union involvement.  EasyJet will be next.

Forget the past

The staff unions are complaining about slave-like working conditions, no sick pay, forced vacations and low and lowering wages. But they need to face up the reality that the days of glamourous air transport are over. The entrepreneurs are adamant that nobody is forcing anyone to work for these airlines if they don’t want to.  And if they do, they will be contributing to the mission to bring even more competitive prices to the consumer. 

Passengers do not seem to mind buying cheap seats. They do not mind paying specifically for services such as food and beverages, luggage, extended leg space, early boarding, window seats and what have you – all of which used to blur the concept of basic cost. Tickets are available on the internet and price comparison websites make the market transparent.

Consumers choose cheap

Meanwhile, the traditional airlines are appealing to consumers to travel with carriers who have happy staff members with union agreements, even if that means higher prices. It’s an organically-farmed chicken vs battery hen argument in which foodstuffs are offered at higher prices with very little evidence to prove they ease the strain on global resources or the pain of animal welfare.

We have also seen the same thing happen with energy consumption. Customers can pay extra for electricity produced by renewables – but would they be able to tell the difference regarding what powers their computer? 

Overall, the conclusion is that most consumers are acting on price and quality and not on sentiments. This is not likely to change in the near future.

Beyond common sense

If only airport services could be grilled in the same way. Security at Kastrup currently employs over 1,000 people. They extend their ‘service’ to demand the removal of shoes and belts and body-frisk you without consideration of your gender, age or personal sensitivity. They confiscate your aftershave and suncream if it amounts to more than 100 ml. They claim that a glass of honey so stiff that it could be carried upside down without a lid is a contraband liquid – water bottles and cigarette lighters are also forbidden and a pair of nail scissors is not far off from being a police matter. 

This has gone too far beyond common sense.  Air carriers should demand the same cost efficiency from airports as they do in the airplanes – and passengers should pay a lot less in airport taxes and fees. And the prices they charge for a hot dog in the departure lounge…

Discount airports please

If passengers can do without fancy services in the air, they can do so at the airport as well. We do not pity the airport operators for missing out on parking fees at 200 kroner per day or more when the conflict is on. We enjoy discount flights and now we demand discount airports. 

Opinion:  http://cphpost.dk

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