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The United Airlines Incident Isn't Just About Airlines

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Robert De Filippis       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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For all you folks who think having a business executive running the government is a good idea, the recent United Airlines incident should give you pause. If you've never been a victim of some corporation's undisputed authority, this might be a good primer for you.

You see, corporations are not democracies. They are dictatorships. In past times, they were benevolent dictatorships. Today, with the emphasis on continual increases in short term profits, the benevolence has given way to a kind of disregard for anyone or anything that gets in their way.

As much as I regret saying this, in most instances government is the only defense we have. I regret that claim because our government is way too big, inefficient and wasteful, but it's the people's voice when it comes limiting the effects of corporate dictatorships. Revealingly, in this case, the government unleashed what we have today when they deregulated the airlines, and the downward spiral began.

Yes, there is the power of economics and the free market. But it takes a kind of coordination seemingly out of our reach in all but the most egregious violations of human decency. This is a good example, but it's rare.

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Normally competition is a good leveler, but the airline industry has been consolidating to the point where there are fewer and fewer competitors. With that goes our ability to choose another carrier where treatment might be better.

Having been inconvenienced by every airline since I started flying almost fifty years ago, I honestly can't pick one that is a sure bet when I travel. Just last month I had to wait after I arrived at the gate an hour before flight time. The incoming plane slated for our use was re-routed because another group of passengers was going to three hours late. This meant our group would only be two hours late.

So apparently, the goal was not on-time departures but fewer late-time departures for more people. A subtle but not unimportant distinction. By the way, two out of the four flights I took departed over two hours late.

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I've been flying commercially since 1968, and my experience has convinced me the worst thing that ever happened to the airline industry was de-regulation. It unleased corporations to use every device at their disposal to increase profits. Now we have extra charges for just about everything other than the seat we squeeze into and the oxygen we breathe.

I've seen this industry go from providing a pleasurable experience to one that exudes the essence of predation; the capture and exploitation of a helpless victim. Get stranded overnight in an airport, and you'll understand helplessness.

Deep down I believe a free market economy with a conscience is the best form. It has created the most overall wealth in the history of human kind. But it has the potential poison within it to destroy itself and everyone with it.

That poison is the shift in the focus of the corporate mission. When I was in business school, a business' mission was fulfilling a need in the market; sometimes creating a need and then fulfilling it too. Profit was a way of keeping score or measuring the effectiveness of the business strategy and tactics to achieve its mission.

When the mission shifted to maximum profits, the kinds of horrors committed on United Airlines was born. If a well-run business organization does one thing very well, it achieves its mission. And it doesn't let anything or anyone get in the way.

When maximum profit is the mission, employees, customers, government, service, quality, and value for dollars all become second tier concerns. Don't believe me. Check out the news about insurance companies, the auto industry, big Pharma, big Agra, etc.

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Depending on these industries to monitor themselves is scary enough. But seeing the corporate takeover of government that we now have is a nightmare of such proportions the United incident is just a minor hiccup.

Robert De Filippis


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Author, columnist, and blogger with a long career in business management, management consulting and executive coaching. I've authored and published six books: "You, Your Self and the 21st Century,"The Flowers Are Talking to Me," and "Faith (more...)

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