Airlines Nosediving One by One

For years now—probably since after the 9/11 attacks, understandably—I’ve noticed the media paying a lot of attention to the troubles of the airline industry. People’s fear of flying, the popularity of e-tickets, and the trimming of airline’s costs (from eliminating meal service to reducing baggage limits) are just a few issues that have dominated headlines. More recently, articles discussing the soaring costs of jet fuel have been largely unavoidable.

But in the last few weeks, I’ve really been stunned by the multitude of airline death blows. Just today, Alitalia swerved closer to bankruptcy as talks with Air France/KLM folded, while ATA abruptly shut down, stranding thousands of passengers and firing over 2,000 employees.

On Monday, Hawaii’s Aloha Airlines said farewell to its last passenger; the airline shut down its 61-year-old operations by letting go of 2,000 to 4,000 employees. And last month, Delta announced that it would offer buyouts to over half its workforce, a whopping 30,000 employees, and United said it would ground about 15 to 20 jets, 4% of its fleet.

While industry experts claim most larger carriers are safe, for now, from closing shop, they expect to see a stream of smaller operations to continue going under. This is a really serious trend that seems to be coming to a head. Tens of thousands of jobs have already been lost, with more to come.