Attention All Passengers: The Airlines Dangerous Descent—And How to Reclaim Our Skies by William J. McGee, Harper, 368 pages, $26.99, Hardcover, July 2012, ISBN 9780062088376
William McGee is an award-winning travel journalist who worked for seven years in the airline industry, is a FAA licensed aircraft dispatcher, served in the US Air Force Auxiliary, and was chosen in 2010 by the US secretary of transportation as the lone consumer advocate on the Future of Aviation Advisory Committee.
I rarely begin a review with the author’s bio, but that is a life perfectly tailored to a man that would want to write a book about the airlines. Lucky for us, Mr. McGee did. He describes the current state of the industry as parallel to the state of the country:
The airline story has become America’s story: while we’re entertained with bread and circuses, good jobs are downsized, outsourced, and offshored, the disconnect grows between service companies and their customers, Corporate America purchases government influence wholesale, federal regulators refuse to properly oversee our safety and security, and the financial chasm widens between senior executive “haves” and average worker “have-nots.”
I think we all tend to see the industries we love as a microcosm of the times we live in (I know I do with publishing), but McGee makes a compelling case for the airline industry being the real mirror of our era, and what he shows us with that mirror isn’t pretty. The jobs picture, for instance: the number of full-time jobs in the U.S. airline industry has declined by 25 percent in the past decade, and the average hourly pay has decreased by 4.2 percent since 2007. At the same time, the public’s opinion of airline service quality has plummeted to the point where it is now at the bottom of the rankings in customer satisfaction, and the airlines financial performance has been abysmal, as well. Since the deregulated era began in 1979, there have been 189 bankruptcy filings in the industry. (The one exception in the industry is Southwest, which has never filed for bankruptcy, consistently ranks at the top of customer satisfaction, and has never involuntarily furloughed a single employee.)
The author will take you through these issues and many more—truly a compendium of what’s gone wrong in the industry—before concluding with a concise and compelling laundry list of potential solutions, a “Manifesto for Taking Back Our Skies.”
If you look back through the archives of Jack Covert Selects reviews, you’ll find I review industry books regularly. There is something about a book on a single industry that can distill all business into clear, easily digestible, action-oriented lessons. This holds true for Attention All Passengers. Whether you’re running a corner store, the United States government, or anything in between (other than maybe the airlines), I think you’ll enjoy the book and find many compelling takeaways within.