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5.0 out of 5 stars The bad new days for the airlines..., 17 Jun 2013
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
Mark Gerchick's new book "Full Upright and Locked Position", is an insider's look at the airline industry in the past ten or so years. A lawyer, Gerchick has worked as counsel for both the FAA and the DOT. Now he's an consultant to airlines which are struggling to stay ahead of the economic and legal and safety problems which have plagued the airline industry. Mark Gerchick makes reference to another recent book - by pilot Patrick Smith - who looks at the industry from a slightly different point-of-view. Both books are very good and give the interested reader a view from both the cockpit (excuse me, "flight deck") and the business end of flying. Smith's book is a more passionate, personal book while Gerchick's is more measured emotionally, but both are worth reading.

I'm a former travel agent and probably a bit more "into" the business end of the airline industry than most readers. When Gerchick writes about fare manipulation by smart flyers and talks about "hidden cities" and buying two cheap round-trip tickets and throwing away half of each, I "get" what he's talking about. Hell, in my career twenty years ago, I was considered the "queen of point-afters" by my clients. But after the airlines quit paying commission to travel agents, the business model of travel agents using airlines as a source of income cratered and was hurt further by the internet and travelers becoming their OWN travel agents. That was in the mid-1990's and the airline business never looked back. Perhaps they should have, but that's for another book. Gerchick's book is about the years post-2000

Many people think the airlines tales-of-woe began post 9/11, but they really began a bit earlier. The economic downturn beginning in the early 2000's was exacerbated by the attacks of September 11th. Onerous security measures put into place by the US government at airports and on airplanes made flying - already a drudgery - that much worse. Business travelers began to cut their travel plans and the airlines were losing passengers at a pretty good clip post 9/11. Fuel prices were climbing with the declining economy and flying old, fuel-inefficient metal proved too much for many airlines. Bankruptcies were common as the airlines tried to ameliorate fuel costs and souring employee benefit/wages. The old-time legacy carriers like United, Delta, Northwest, Continental, American,and USAir found the going rough against the upstart airlines like Southwest and AirTran. These newer, sleeker carriers didn't have either the actual and/or proverbial "baggage" the older carriers were saddled with. By 2014, the first four on that list had merged into two carriers - Delta and United - and the last two are in the process of merging. Gerchick is very good at explaining these economic woes and the steps managements took to get their airlines back in order. Fees for checking bags and no-food-in-coach played a big part of this.
But why do people still hate flying? And you better believe they do. Crammed into a coach seat with a screaming baby on one side and someone who smells like he hasn't bathed in a week on the other side, AFTER having gone through the rigors of the TSA, is an unpleasant way to spend four hours. Added to that, there's a chance your charged-for checked bags will go astray and bad weather may hold you on the runway for hours after landing. Disgruntled flight attendants and other airline employees mad at their airlines for economic reasons add to the general surliness of the average flyer's journey. The way to alleviate some of that unpleasantness is to fly a whole lot on one airline and get "status". You might not be sitting up in First, but the Coach "experience" is a whole lot better if you can board early and find a place for your carry-on in the cramped overhead compartment. Better to be a "Gold" or "Platinum" than to be with the unwashed masses.

Mark Gerchick does an excellent job explaining the ins-and-outs, the whys-and-why nots, of today's travel. He knows both the government and the airline industry's view of the on-going problems of traveling today. He's a good writer - as is Patrick Smith - and both their books are worth reading.
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Full Upright and Locked Position: Not-So-Comfortable Truths About Air Travel Today
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