This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Air Travel Hits New Lows for Passengers

Flying, it seems, has descended to the airborne equivalent of taking the city bus across town.

Except it costs a lot more.

And what do I get for my money? A bag of pretzels, safety worries and monumental aggravation.

It's no surprise that airlines are struggling due to fuel costs and a sinking economy in which potential travelers have less discretionary cash to spend.

But my family's safety is more important than an airline's bottom line. Any airline that flies nonairworthy planes and turns a blind eye toward mandatory safety inspections drags the industry to a new low at a time when travelers are already fed up.

AMR Corp.'s (AMR) American Airlines canceled more than 1,300 flights yesterday and today to reinspect airplane wiring in the wake of last month's safety scandal involving Southwest Airlines (LUV). Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration slapped Southwest with a $10.2-million civil penalty for flying planes that hadn't been inspected for fuselage cracks.

UAL Corp.'s (UAUA) United Airlines and Delta Air Lines (DAL) also grounded planes for inspections when the FAA announced a maintenance audit following the Southwest debacle.

Airline Stocks May Have Bottomed

The story grew even more disturbing last week when Douglas Peters, a long-time FAA inspector, and other whistle-blowers, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about the airlines' lax managerial response to concerns about aircraft safety.

It seems we can't even trust the FAA -- the agency whose regulations are supposed to keep passengers safe. An FAA manager, Terry Lambert, also testified that he was ordered to destroy notes about his inspections and conversations regarding safety problems after FAA big wigs heard that Congress was asking questions.

I don't need to fly in comfort. Cost-saving measures by airlines are nothing new -- and sadly, I'm resigned to that fact. I've grown used to stale sandwiches and paying $3 for headsets that sound like I'm listening through a can. I'll even overlook literally rubbing elbows with the stranger seated next to me.

But when my family boards a flight en route to a vacation in California this summer, I sure hope someone bothers to inspect the plane -- and that others in the chain of command take his or her safety recommendations seriously.

Years ago, while en route to New York from Chicago, a flight attendant announced "a problem with the aircraft." Passengers dread that phrase -- particularly after take-off. I could hear the collective sigh of relief when she explained that the ground crew forgot to replenish the passenger water supply. We couldn't flush toilets during the flight -- a scenario that was preferable to a life-threatening alternative or emergency landing.

But why should any of us have to weigh the benefits of a foul-smelling airplane bathroom over crashing? The experience forced me to contemplate the possibility of an oversight that could affect my family's safety.

I'm fed up with airlines -- and apparently I'm not alone.

An annual study released this week showed the industry's quality at a 17-year-low. The Airline Quality Rating (AQR) -- an overall rating for the industry -- provides consumers and industry watchers a means to compare quality among airlines. Dr. Dean Headley of the National Institute for Aviation Research at the University of Wichita, and Dr. Brent D. Bowen, and aviation professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, have been publishing the rating since 1991.

This year, the professors analyzed 16 airlines and their performance in 15 categories important to consumers, such as on-time arrivals, involuntarily denied boarding and mishandled baggage. AirTran (AAI) and JetBlue (JBLU) ranked among the top two airlines for quality, while Delta Air Lines (DAL) and SkyWest Airlines (SKYW) were among the lowest.

1 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!


DOW 18,053.71 +23.50 0.13%
S&P 500 2,088.77 +6.89 0.33%
NASDAQ 4,806.8590 +33.3870 0.70%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs