They lie about amenities, fares, loyalty programs and schedules. They lie to you. And they lie to me.
Excuse me while I play this clip.
“It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies,” says the good doctor. “The only variable is about what.”
All of which brings us to this week’s top story, about the increasingly creative efforts airlines are making to squeeze even more luggage fees from you. That includes bending a few facts, of course.
It gives me no pleasure to report these stories. I’d rather be with our good news columnist, Andrew Der, reporting on the amazing service you get when you fly.
Why did this story resonate? Well, there’s a reason I played the House clip. It’s a medical drama, and it sometimes involved doctors — some of the most trusted members of society — lying. It’s a lot like airlines, companies we literally trust with our lives, saying things to us that are not true.
Among some of the most recent distortions:
- JetBlue is bringing humanity back to air travel. Oh, and smaller seats.
- Spirit Airlines claims it offers deluxe seating, reliable, on-time service, and a friendly staff. My question: In which alternate universe would that be?
- United Airlines claims its skies are friendly. I’m not even going to try to argue that one.
And don’t even get me started on the crush of complaints we receive every day about bait-and-switch loyalty programs, funny airline math, arrivals, departures and the status of your lost luggage.
The latest indignity? Asking — and receiving — permission from Congress to lie about their airfares. (Memo to airlines: Don’t be so sure you’re going to have your way. Your passengers are watching.)
So why do airlines lie? Is it, as Dr. House claims, a basic truth of the human condition?
Maybe. You hear about other industries being truth-challenged — industries like cable companies and wireless carriers. Not coincidentally, all of these businesses are at the bottom of the national customer service rankings. That should tell you something.
The issue here is, if a business can profit by lying, and no one is there to stop it, then it will. These bottom feeders have a few things in common: they are loosely regulated by the government and they are de facto oligopolies, meaning that there is no real competition.
In other words, they lie because it’s good for business. They lie because no one will stop them. They lie because they can.
I mean, where else are you going to go? Everyone lies.
We, ladies and gentlemen, are the only things standing between consumers and these corporate untruths. Which is why we spend such an inordinate amount of time covering the airline industry.
If we don’t shine a spotlight on their lies, who will?