News - Is it the federal government's job to bail out the airlines?
No. Why should this particular industry be singled out for a $5-billion hand job from Uncle Sam?
Air travel has always been a crapshoot. While it is perhaps the safest form of transportation, we've known all along that pilot error, weather, mechanical failure and terrorism can rear their ugly heads at any moment. Airlines are especially aware of this — so aware, in fact, that they purchase insurance to cover losses that may occur as a result of the aforementioned factors. While I concede that the events of Sept. 11 are unprecedented in scope, I don't see the need for the government to take a political/emotional leap into the insurance business.
There is no question that the Sept. 11 tragedy will have a lasting affect on the airline industry. That said, the repercussions of the attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania are not exclusive to commercial aviation. So why should this particular industry be singled out for a $5-billion "hand job" from Uncle Sam?
In the wake of the attacks, the airlines claimed that the three-day moratorium on commercial air traffic was costing them nearly $100 million per day.
No one is questioning those figures. But you have to question the logic of putting a $5-billion Band-Aid on a wound that isn't likely to heal any faster with any amount of corporate welfare. These events occurred, in part, as a result of the industry's refusal to provide adequate security. There are no guarantees when you strap yourself into a commercial airline seat. And the industry must accept that it is not the responsibility of the federal government to guarantee its financial well-being.
Even before the attacks, running a profitable airline was a Herculean task in an industry that has always existed in a "fly or die" mode. There's no doubt that these events have taxed all commercial airlines. But those operating under sound business models will survive. Sure, staff reductions and other cost- cutting measures will be felt by airline employees and customers alike. But that's life. Terrorism did not make commercial aviation a tough business; it simply made a tough business tougher.
Airlines will survive by the rules that have always governed their existence. When they convince passengers it is safe to fly, and when they can once again provide the service demanded by the marketplace, the industry will return to sound financial health. It's the public's confidence in air travel that will "bail out" the industry, not Uncle Sam.
Chris Renaldo is a technical recruiter living in Atlanta.??