Presidential candidates keep their distance from airline industry woes

By Ellis Henican

The word "turbulence" doesn’t quite do justice to the current state of the airlines.

"Crash landing" is closer to the truth.

When a single airline, American, is forced to cancel 3,000 flights — well, that’s a lot more than inconvenience. It rattles a crucial industry to the core.

For years, we’ve all complained about the assorted unpleasantries of flying. Now, we’re lucky whenever the plane leaves the ground.


I had some fun this past week rewriting the advertising slogans of the major airlines — and pointing out how improbable the real ad claims are.

Shouldn’t American finally admit: "We don’t have a clue why you fly?" Shouldn’t Delta really be saying, "We hate to fly and it shows?"

To be fair, though, it isn’t all the industry’s fault.

Sky-high fuel prices. Rising labor costs and airport fees. Tough competitive pressure to keep fares down. Not long ago, I had the executive of a major airline unload on me when I used the phrase "brand loyalty."

"People who spend $300 on a hotel room without a second thought will sit for hours on the Internet, shaving $20 off the flight," he exploded.

Airline people have a snappy answer whenever they get asked: When did the industry’s tough times begin? The day Orville and Wilbur achieved altitude.

I get all that, even though I sure don’t like it as a flier. But here’s what I still don’t understand: Why haven’t any of the candidates for president made this issue theirs?

Deregulation, regulation, a real passenger’s bill of rights. Anything has to be better than this.


It’s an 80-percent issue, an easy 5 in the polls, nothing but clear skies ahead, no real downside between here and Election Day.

Hillary, Barack or John, are you listening? Which one of you is ready to fly?

Henican is a columnist for Newsday. Send comments to

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