The Future of Commercial Aviation - Part Three - January 29, 2010

The Future of Commercial Aviation – Part Two – January 22, 2010
January 22, 2010
Juan Trippe and Pan Am – Part One – February 5, 2010
February 5, 2010
Show all

The Future of Commercial Aviation – Part Three – January 29, 2010

This week I will finish the series on “The Future of Commercial Aviation” and while it would be easy to offer up an analysis and pick winners and losers, I think I will let the words of others speak for me. I have a few quotes to share with you that will provide fuel for thought. As always, I would like all aviators to connect with their roots and one of the ways they can do that is by using the “Third Dimension Blog” as a resource. Come with me now as two dimensional thinking meets one dimensional thinking.

Quotes from the Past, Present and Perhaps the Future of Commercial Aviation

You are fucking academic eggheads! You don’t know shit. You can’t deregulate this industry. You’re going to wreck it. You don’t know a goddamn thing! —Robert L. Crandal, CEO American Airlines, addressing a Senate lawyer prior to airline deregulation, 1977.

People Express is clearly the archetypical deregulation success story and the most spectacular of my babies. It is the case that makes me the proudest. —Alfred Kahn, Professor of Political Economy/Father of Deregulation, Cornell University, ‘Time,’ 13 Jan 1986.

I’m flying high and couldn’t be more confident about the future. —Freddy Laker, Laker Airways, 3 days before the collapse of Laker Airways, 3 February 1982.

The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down. —Warren Buffett, annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, February 2000

I don’t think JetBlue has a better chance of being profitable than 100 other predecessors with new airplanes, new employees, low fares, all touchy-feely … all of them are losers. Most of these guys are smoking ragweed. —Gordon Bethune, CEO Continental Airlines, ‘Time’ magazine, June 2002.

The airline business is crazy. I’ve not been enamored with the industry in general. You can’t depend on anybody and anything. It’s dog-eat-dog and one thing or another from one minute to the next. What I understand about it, I don’t like what I see. —Robert Brooks, Hooters Air owner, ‘The Sun News,’ 21 March 2006.

I didn’t take this job to preside over a bankruptcy. I refuse to accept that United Airlines is collateral damage from Sept. 11. —Jack Creighton, new chairman and CEO of UAL Corporation, 28 October 2001. UAL entered bankruptcy on 9 December 2002.

If Richard Branson had worn a pair of steel-rimmed glasses, a double-breasted suit and shaved off his beard, I would have taken him seriously. As it was I couldn’t . . —Lord King, Chairman British Airways

Air transport is just a glorified bus operation. —Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, quoted in Business Week Online, 12 September 2002.

No one expects Braniff to go broke. No major U.S. carrier ever has. — The Wall Street Journal, 30 July 1980.

I can’t imagine a set of circumstances that would produce Chapter 11 for Eastern. —Frank Lorenzo

As a businessman, Frank Lorenzo gives capitalism a bad name. —William F. Buckley

If you would look up bad labor relations in the dictionary, you would have an American Airlines logo beside it.—U.S. District Judge Joe Kendall, issuing a restraining order against an American Airlines APA pilot union sick out, 10 Feb 1999.

This entire industry is in a death spiral, including this company, and I can’t get us out of it. Deregulation is an abysmal failure and we have no more furniture left to burn.—Bruce Lakefield, CEO US Airways, while between bankruptcies and before being taken over by America West, October 2004.

Code-sharing, alliances, and connections are all about “how do we screw the poor customer for more money?”— Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, quoted in Business Week Online, 12 September 2002.

The state of our airline industry is a national embarrassment. —Tom Plaskett, Chairman Pan Am, following the airline’s collapse.

Americans love rising-from-the-ashes stories. They love the underdog coming back. We’re going to take a tarnished brand name and bring it back to a high degree of luster. —Martin R. Shugrue Jr., President and CEO Pan American World Airways, 1996.

I’ve said many times that I’d be thrilled to sell the airline to the employees and our guys said no, we’ll take all the money, anyway. —Robert L. Crandall, 1997

If the Wright brothers were alive today Wilbur would have to fire Orville to reduce costs.—Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines, ‘USA Today,’ 8 June 1994.

Every other start-up wants to be another United or Delta or American. We just want to get rich. —Robert Priddy, ValuJet CEO, 1996.

We have to make you think it’s an important seat – because you’re in it. —Donald Burr, founder of People Express.

The thing I miss about Air Force One is they don’t lose my luggage. —President George Bush Sr. 

Deregulation will be the greatest thing to happen to the airlines since the jet engine. —Richard Ferris, CEO United Airlines, 1976.

The greatest sin of airline management of the last 22 years is to say, “It’s all labor’s fault.” —Donald Carty, Chairman and CEO American Airlines, 12 August 2002. 

There are a lot of parallels between what we’re doing and an expensive watch. It’s very complex, has a lot of parts and it only has value when it’s predictable and reliable. —Gordon Bethune, Chairman and CEO Continental Airlines, 1997.

I mean, they get paid an awful lot of money. The only good thing about them is they can’t work after they’re 60. —Judge Prudence Carter Beatty, New York Southern District Bankruptcy Court, regards Delta Air Lines pilots. Reported in The Wall Street Journal, 18 November 2005

(All quotes used are from

Next week we will move forward with a little commentary and a new series. I hope that this look back today brought a smile to your face and provided a little fuel for thought. As always, take some time to look back, connect with your past and remember as an aviator you are a “Gatekeeper of the Third Dimension.”

Robert Novell

January 29, 2010