The NY Times reports:
United Continental is facing an insurrection among its shareholders — led by the well-regarded former chief executive of Continental Airlines, Gordon M. Bethune.
Mr. Bethune is one of six director candidates put forward on Tuesday by two hedge funds, Altimeter Capital Management and PAR Capital Management, which together own about 7.1 percent of United’s shares. ...
The activists argue that United has badly underperformed over the last five years, despite its name recognition and size, which the hedge funds argue arises from its board.
Whatever the reasons for United's poor stock performance, it certainly isn't that they've been spending too much money on their customers:
Early last summer, a team at United Airlines set out to discover what bothered its passengers most. The airline collects 8,000 customer surveys a day, and there was a lot to choose from: Was it extra fees for luggage? The lack of legroom? The sour, thin coffee? Was it being forced to spend 20 hours in a frigid military barracks in Newfoundland (as passengers on a United flight to London did last June)? How about the carrier’s tendency to lose the one bag you really need? (On June 17, 2014, Rory McIlroy tweeted: “Hey @united landed in Dublin yesterday morning from Newark and still no golf clubs... Sort of need them this week.”) Could it be the problems with the reservation system that caused widespread delays in 2012, and again in 2014, or the computer glitch on July 8, 2015, that led the airline to suspend all its flights, all over the world, for two hours? In October, United failed to provide a wheelchair to a passenger with cerebral palsy; he had to crawl off the plane.
Every airline has its horror stories, of course—air travel is full of opportunities for customer disenchantment. But United has proved an industry leader: On all major performance metrics—delays, cancellations, mishandled bags, and bumped passengers—United has, since 2012, been reliably the worst or near worst among its competitors. In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, United was responsible for 43 percent of all consumer complaints filed against U.S. airlines. It finished last among North American nondiscount airlines in the 2015 J.D. Power & Associates customer satisfaction survey. Recently the carrier agreed to pay $2.8 million in fines for tarmac delays and the poor treatment of disabled passengers. “United is off-the-charts worse than anything I’ve ever seen,” says Lenny Mendonca, a retired senior partner at McKinsey. Despite having flown more than 3 million miles with the airline, he says, “If I have any other alternative, I will fly someone else.”
It’s been five years since United Airlines and Continental Airlines combined to form what was at the time the world’s largest carrier, and the merger hasn’t gone well.
You can say that again:
Labor relations are sour, customer satisfaction is low and the basic measurements of the airline’s operational performance are dismal compared with its main rivals.
Passengers surveyed by Skytrax, an airline quality rating agency, give United a grade of 3 out of 10, the same as the low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines. (American earned a 4, Delta got a 5 and top-rated carriers like Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Qatar Airways received 7’s.) ...
On-time performance is one of the biggest problems for the carrier. In July , for instance, about 25 percent of all United flights did not land on time, ranking the airline ninth among 13 domestic airlines, according to FlightStats. This compared with 18 percent for Delta Air Lines and an industry average of 22 percent. While Delta can boast of going several weeks without canceling a single flight, United had the second-lowest percentage of completed flights after WestJet in July, the last month for which government statistics were available. ...
United has not recovered from the difficulties of the merger, in which stressed-out employees took out their frustration on passengers, Mr. Ali said. “It created chaos,” he said, “and the passengers were the ones that suffered.”
Yet, it just keeps getting worse.
I'm off to Virginia to visit a family member having surgery. I very much doubt I'll be posting this week. But check back on June 21.
In the meanwhile, are you following my Twitter feed? I'll probably be reasonably active over there: @ProfBainbridge
Trying a small practice hill in my Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. It's not a big hill, of course, but I'm still learning. This ride was on West Camino Cielo in the Los Padres National Forest.
The recent posting hiatus resulted from my taking UCLAW's spring break to get out of town for a while. Helen, the dogs, and I took our RV up to Redding, California, visiting Coyote Valley (outside San Jose) on the way.
My Yelp review of the Coyote Valley RV Park is here.
My Yelp review of the Premier RV Resort in Redding is here.
New photos of Coyote Valley, Lake Shasta Dam, and Mt Shasta are up on Flickr.
After doing a lot of research, we recently purchased a 2015 Itasca Navion 24M from Mike Thompson RV in Colton CA. We were attracted to it by: (1) the Mercedes Sprinter chassis with good fuel mileage, solid build quality, long service intervals, and so on. (2) The 24M floor plan was really attractive for our needs. We travel with 2 adults, a standard poodle, and a golden retriever. Having the considerable amount of open floor space, especially when the slide is out and the sofa bed is folded up makes moving around much easier than in any of the other Sprinter-based Class B or Class C RVs we looked at. Of course, the slide itself was a plus. (3) The rear bathroom was a major selling point. I'm a hefty guy and many RV toilets--even in 40 foot diesel pushers--lacked sufficient (how to put this delicately?) knee room when sitting. The 24M has plenty. Plus, the shower accommodates as well. (4) The short length makes driving the Navion a snap and (at least for now) eliminates the need for a toad. (5) The swiveling cab chairs and auxiliary table expand you living arrangement options a lot. (6) Good storage space, especially the rear closet in the bathroom. (7) Our RV came without the cab bed, which gives a nice open area that makes moving between the cab and coach easier.
We're storing the Navion at Benchmark RV in Sun Valley, CA. Very professional, very helpful, valet service. Not the warmest and fuzziest guys, but we like them a lot anyway.
We're just back from our first shakedown cruise to Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton. We wanted someplace close to home in case anything went wrong and we'd always wanted to go to the Hitching Post (Sideways notwithstanding). We really liked both. My Yelp reviews are here.
Lessons learned: We did not do a sufficiently thorough inspection when we picked up the RV after buying it and missed several nagging minor problems. Latches not working quite right and so on. Hopefully they'll all be covered by the warranty. My next RV will get a much longer inspection.
Upon arrival at Flying Flags, we opted not to hook up the cable TV, city water, or sewer. This made it much easier the next day to unhook and drive over to Solvang. (Nice town but crowded and seriously kitschy).
Speaking of sewer, the black water and grey water tank meters proved ineffectual. When we left on Sunday, they still showed empty but when I dumped the tanks there was quite a lot of waste. As for the first time I ever dumped sewage, the less said the better.
The refrigerator took a long time to get cold, but when it did it ran fine. Is there a way to speed up the process other than maxing out the temperature control (I guess I should say, minimizing it)? Conversely, using both the electric and LP water heater elements meant we had hot water almost immediately. Once the water was hot, I turned off the LP element and had plenty of hot water the rest of the way.
I hooked my iPhone up to the TV using a lightening to HDMI adapter. Worked great at showing videos.
Our Navion has a sofa bed with foam mattresses instead of the old air mattress. As others have noted, there is a metal rod in the fold of the bed that is uncomfortable. Anticipating that, we bought 3-inch thick Wamsutta mattress pads and Travel Sack bags for both beds. They provided more than adequate cushioning. Storing them is a bit of a PITA, however. We still haven't found an ideal place for the full size pad that goes on the sofa bed. We're currently putting it back in the plastic container in which it came and stowing that in the shower during the day.
We averaged 15.5 MPG roundtrip with a mix of highway, backroad, and in-town driving. Total of about 250 miles, counting side trips. Still tracking down rattles, but the slide and the stove seem to be the main culprits. Still, there were a lot fewer rattles than I expected. Drives like a breeze. If you can drive a large SUV, this is no problem. Plenty of power for entering the highway and so on. Easy to park.
I'm not happy with the infotainment/GPS sat nav. It's too low in the dash, so you have to take your eyes off the road to use it. There is a huge amount of glare that makes it hard to read. It's a magnet for dust, fingerprints, and dog hair, which makes the readability issues even worse. The backup camera is pretty much useless. I am unable to figure out how to get voice navigation instructions without having the radio on.
As regular readers know, I've been resisting travel for several years due to the combined miseries of enduring TSA groping and suffering from a bad back. With the considerable improvement of my back in the last year or so, however, I've gradually been easing my way back into travel. And now I'm busting out in a big way. Next Month Helen and I are off to New Zealand, where I will be the 2014 Visiting Cameron Fellow at the University of Auckland Faculty of Law.
The Auckland Law School is delighted to welcome Professor Stephen Bainbridge to New Zealand in May, as the visiting Cameron Fellow for 2014. ...
Stephen and his wife Helen will be visiting New Zealand from 10 May until 3 June. ...
Stephen’s Fellowship is funded by Auckland alumnus Tim Cameron, a litigation partner in the leading New York law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, and his wife Kathy. Stephen’s Fellowship is the third Cameron Fellow the Auckland Law School has welcomed. In 2010, Professor Jim Ryan, a specialist in constitutional law at the University of Virginia, was the inaugural Cameron Visiting Fellow, followed by Professor Carol M. Rose, an American authority on individual property rights in 2011.
While there I will be giving a number of talks, including a public lecture on (regular readers will have guessed) Director Versus Shareholder Primacy in New Zealand Company Law as Compared to U.S.A. Corporate Law.
I'm grateful to the University of Auckland law faculty and Tim and Kathy Cameron for this wonderful opportunity.
From the WSJ:
The small regional jets once loved because they replaced rickety, noisy, slow turboprops have multiplied into the majority of domestic airline flights in the U.S., and are now seen as some of the least desirable airplanes. Travelers accustomed to riding in a full-size jet instead find themselves on planes with tighter seating, lower ceilings and fewer amenities for flights as long as four hours.
Regional-jet service has grown over the last 10 years to be the backbone of much of domestic air travel, even if it is impossible to stand up straight in the bathroom. ...
Russell Huffman, a tech company sales vice president on the flight, joked that airlines have "done a good job figuring out the right amount of misery people will put up with."
Wrong. At least as far as this camel is concerned, the airlines and TSA have figured out the right amount of miserable straws to break his back. I'm not scared of flying. I just fraking hate it so much that it'll take a death in the family to get me on a plane these days.
But I have discovered trains with sleeper compartments. And I'm hoping to use them to get back into the academic speaking circuit starting next year.
People are so used to air travel meaning delays and invasions of basic privacy that we’re willing to travel in less convenient, more dangerous ways to avoid the hassle. From Bloomberg Businessweek:
There is lethal collateral damage associated with all this spending on airline security—namely, the inconvenience of air travel is pushing more people onto the roads. Compare the dangers of air travel to those of driving. To make flying as dangerous as using a car, a four-plane disaster on the scale of 9/11 would have to occur every month, according to analysis published in the American Scientist. Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month—which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day. They also suggest that enhanced domestic baggage screening alone reduced passenger volume by about 5 percent in the five years after 9/11, and the substitution of driving for flying by those seeking to avoid security hassles over that period resulted in more than 100 road fatalities.
You realize that there is very little evidence that the TSA makes air travel safer. You get that, right? The shoes, the liquids, the random bag searches that uncover dildos and G.I. Joe weapons — none of that is actually helping. The TSA is one big rock that promises to prevent tiger attacks; you’re supposed to think it’s working just because a tiger doesn’t show up in your backyard to maul you.
Mystal then moves to the crux of the problem:
Maybe it’s the law school in me, but I think the problem is that there is no one particular interest group that TSA is picking on. There’s no “legal defense fund” that represents people who have been violated by the TSA. Hell, we don’t even have a Gloria Allred of TSA claims. We don’t have anybody whose job is to legally protect us from the TSA.
TSA’s greatest strategy has been to violate all of us. Not only Arabs or only poor people or only gun owners or only people who dislike watching their children molested. It turns out, there are no lawyers for “Americans.”
And so the TSA-ists win.
TSA reportedly exposed breasts of Rep. Ralph Hall’s teen grandniece, called it ‘accidental’; Update: TSA internal report released, blames girl’s ‘loose fitting’ dress
If they'll do it to a relative of a member of Congress, what won't they do to the rest of us?
Reports abound of arbitrary and abusive treatment by overzealous agents, a litany of intimidation that includes attractive women singled out for extra "examination," unnecessarily aggressive pat-downs and, perhaps most commonly, verbal abuse toward passengers who exhibit any sort of indignation for what they perceive as harsh or unnecessary measures.
The worst fears of many air travellers were confirmed last week in a court finding related to a 2011 incident in Norfolk, Va. A former agent of the Transportation Security Administration, a federal department founded shortly after the 9/11 attacks, pleaded guilty to stealing $520 from a passenger. The theft, of course, is bad enough (and all too common, as we'll see in a moment). But according to statements from the agent, John W. Irwin, he did so partly as a means to punish a traveller he felt was giving him attitude. ...
As for the outrageous theft by the people who are supposed to be ensuring our security, it apparently goes on all the time. Not only cash, but phones, iPads and laptops frequently fail to make it back into passengers' luggage. Since 2003, nearly 400 TSA agents lost their jobs due to theft.
Of course, TSA lying propagandists like "Blogger Bob" would have you believe that the TSA is run by angels making our lives safer and better each and every day.
BLUE ON BLUE INTERCONTINENTAL HIGH-SPEED RAIL FAIL: “For decades the environmental movement has used [the National Environmental Protection Act] and its [California Environmental Quality Act]-like state equivalents, to block key energy development and infrastructure projects. Seeing Obama’s signature transportation initiative killed by this same tactic is some sweet poetic justice.”
(Headline inspired by this presidential malapropism.)
How could anyone who's dealt with TSA and the airlines in recent years root against high speed transcontinental rail? The prospect of luxuriating in a comfortable sleeper cabin while the train races across the continent at blazing speed seems so attractive to this increasingly aerophobic traveller. Indeed, if I thought he could make it happen, I'd vote for Obama in a minute.