NBC Trashes American Airlines with Faulty Comparison
âNBC Nightly Newsâ attacked one airline on August 20 with a âsummer travel nightmareâ story and a comparison between airlines that ignored key differences.
NBC correspondent Tom Costello criticized the worldâs largest air carrier American Airlines â which had a passenger count of nearly 100 million in 2006 according to the International Air Transport Association â for flight delays.
Costello cited arrival rates for American Airlines and Southwest Airlines to build a case against American: âSo far this summer, flightstats.com reports American Airlines has had the lowest on-time arrival rate at 65 percent. But yet another Dallas-based carrier, Southwest, has had the highest on-time rate at 78 percent.â
But Costelloâs comparison ignored differences between the two airlines.
In Dallas â Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) operates out of Dallas-Love Field (DAL), an airport that is much less congested than the much larger American Airlines hub, Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW). In 2006, the slightly-smaller Southwest Airlines had roughly 96 million passengers.
American Airlines (NYSE:AMR) also has a different business model. They operate on a hub-and-spoke network and have several hub airports â Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Chicago-OâHare International Airport (ORD), Miami International Airport (MIA), Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) and San Juan-Luis MuĂ±oz MarĂn International Airport (SJU). Those hub cities make it possible for American Airlines to serve 158 destinations.
On the other hand, Southwest Airlines serves only 64 destinations and offers mainly point-to-point service to mostly larger metropolitan areas. American Airlines is able to offer service to more places, but its hub-and-spoke system is more susceptible to the delays according to Todd Sinai, a
âWhat weâre experiencing this summer is a reflection of a structural feature of how air travel works in the
A connecting flight (plane change) is required to reach a passengerâs ultimate destination. And, if a series of flights are delayed at one of Americanâs hubs, it could set off a domino-effect of other delays.
NBCâs Costello concluded that when it comes to flying, passengers should âhope for the best and expect the worst.â
â[I]t would triple the systemâs capacity â without tripling the workforce. NextGen would do this by harnessing precise information from GPS satellites, advanced communications and sophisticated automation, to shift from air traffic control to air traffic management,â wrote Armey.
But rather than fix the governmentâs antiquated air traffic control system, some have suggested placing the burden on the airlines like "CBS Evening Newsâ did on August 12.
â[A]irline analysts say [the airlines] can afford it,â said CBS correspondent Randall Pinkston as he discussed a possible âdesignated parking areaâ with water and food for delaying passengers. He pointed to Northwest Airlinesâ $2 billion profit, but neglected to mention the companyâs 2005 bankruptcy.