Friday, November 07, 2008

High Load Factors: Airlines Crow, We Cower

I don't quite get the point of airlines crowing about their record-high load factors these days. Delta, the latest to report October traffic, leads off the announcement proclaiming that domestic load factors for the month were 83.7 percent -- "higher than any previous October on record."

I guess that plays well with those poor devils who invest in airline stocks. But to the rest of us, it simply underscores how crowded and constricted the airline system has become.

Delta is no exception to the trend. Planes are more full than ever despite a sharp fall-off in demand. That's because there are fewer flights and fewer seats going up. Delta's domestic capacity in October, for example, was down 13 percent from October 2007.


Speaking of a fall-off in demand, my wife and I are in San Francisco right now, marveling at how few tourists are around.

We usually avoid Fisherman's Wharf, but we had reason to stay at the Hilton Hotel here this time. I've been coming to San Francisco for 40 years, in every month of the year. I know that the pre-Thanksgiving weeks are usually slow everywhere, but I have never seen the tourist areas of this city emptier.

On the other hand, the grand old San Francisco spirit is always in evidence.

Take the Tuesday election (San Francisco went 85 percent for Obama, incidentally). While decrying those "wacky San Francisco stories" and tropes that the media are so fond of, the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday ran an editorial that praised local voters for rejecting a ballot measure on Tuesday that would have renamed a sewage treatment plant after President George W. Bush.

Dunno, I had to think about that one. Passing the measure would have been an act of sarcasm, of course. Rejecting it strikes me as an act of delicious San Francisco irony.


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