David J. Danto
Principal Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
Let Them Eat Stroopwafels
I consider myself a student of history…and let me tell you, as that student of history, this probably doesn’t turn out well for anyone.
At the time before the French Revolution an inefficient and unfair economic structure existed which placed the burden of taxation on those least able to pay.
In recent years, the US airline industry has been led by an oligarchy of companies run by out-of-touch, overcompensated executives. In order to continue to inflate their earnings they outsourced employees and cut their wages, and at the same time added many fees to their lowest priced tickets, placing the burden of executive compensation on those least able to pay.
France was burdened with outdated, medieval institutions.
The US airline industry still uses outdated, arcane structures to price tickets. These have been even more dragged-down by huge recent increases in the cost of “penalties” and formerly free services.
The French citizens were victims of low wages, and were kept in line by fear of unemployment.
US airline front-line employees are generally not well paid. They often sleep in shared rooms and break rooms, are overworked, underappreciated and operate in fear of doing something wrong that will cost them their jobs. Many workers that had a sense of pride were replaced by lower paid replacements via multiple schemes (outsourcing, regional affiliates, etc.) US airline customers feel the prices they are charged are way out of line with the level of service they are receiving, and feel ripped-off at every step of the way.
In France there was a strong dislike of the wealthy. The subjects no longer felt the nobility deserved the loyalty they once did.
US airline workers generally despise their senior management teams. US airline customers generally despise the airlines they were once loyal to, feeling abused both by an uncaring management that no longer understands the concept of loyalty and by a disgruntled workforce that has no one else to take their anger out onto.
In France the third estate cried-out for fairness – fairness in the taxes they paid, fairness in the space they were allowed to live in, fairness in the way laws and rules were set – and respect for their rights as individuals.
US airline passengers are crying-out (in social media, in letters to the DOT and FAA, in notes to their elected officials) for fairness – fairness in the prices they are charged in routes that no longer have competition, fairness in the amount of space they have to live-in while flying, fairness in the way frequent-flyer program rules are set and managed – and respect for their rights as individuals.
In France, a quote (often misquoted as “let them eat cake”) was attributed to Marie Antoinette, during one of the famines that occurred during the reign of her husband, Louis XVI. Upon being alerted that the people were suffering due to widespread bread shortages at a time she was awash in wealth, the Queen is said to have replied, "Then let them eat brioche.” Though it is now believed that this was never actually spoken, it is reflective of the sentiment of the ruling class at the time. This was instead of actually addressing any of the concerns of the people or sharing any of the wealth.
The US airline industry - awash in windfall profits from “fuel surcharges” and other fees still being collected despite jet-fuel being at ridiculously low prices for a sustained period - rather than address any of the suffering of their passengers or employees, and rather bringing the requested fairness back to their frequent-flyer programs or pricing models, has spoken with a loud and clear voice:
All I can say is that if history is any guide I can’t see how this will turn out well. If I were an airline executive nowadays I’d be very leery of people in airports knitting while waiting around – they might be the next Madame Defarge.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.