Sir - The argument that "-the airline industry needs to bring public perceptions and expectations in line with reality" in your Comment, "Means to and end" (Flight International, 3-9 July), surely needs to be turned on its head. The airlines need to listen to what the customer wants and expects, and to provide it.
Many of the charter airlines seem to regard their charterers as the "customer". This approach is wrong, since the real customer is the passenger who pays for his ticket, whether or not it is part of a package. Passengers, quite reasonably, expect to be transported to their destination in safety and with some punctuality. If a large proportion of passengers refuses to board a flight, it is surely a symptom of something not being right - whether or not their reasons appear logical. The operators would do well to try and find out what this "something" is, to safeguard to future of their businesses.
Years ago, airlines were owned by former aviators, who gave us a sense of personal interest in each aircraft. They are now owned by venture capitalists, who see aircraft as nothing more than paper assets. This is causing passengers to question whether corners are being cut, or whether they are going to get to their destination in one piece.
The US airline industry made the mistake of thinking it was in the "transportation" business, and not the "people" business. The lesson is to remember that the relationship between the company and the consumer is a human one. Give passengers the credit for knowing what is going on and listen to what they want and say.
- Sir - The auto-industry has never succeeded in separating the concepts of "low-price", "old" and "unreliable/unsafe", as your Comment suggests, nor, for that matter, has any other industry. You are comparing apples with oranges: buying a new, cheap, car with renting (a seat in) an aircraft.
The dilemma which the air-transport industry is facing is thus not how to separate these concepts - they are inseparable. A car with an engine problem is, at worst, a nuisance, but not inherently unsafe. An aircraft with an engine problem is, at its worst, doomed, as are all of its occupants. Most of them appreciate the difference fully and deeply every time they board an aircraft.
The real dilemma is how to deal with a link (more often than not correct) in people's minds between reliability and their safety in aircraft and with crews. It must create, or, in this case, maybe recreate, the image that it is doing everything in its power to prevent accidents by operating with modern, meticulously maintained, aircraft, with superbly trained crews, within a strictly regulated and rigorously controlled framework. That extremely precious public image must then be carefully nursed.
The nuclear-energy industry, for instance, managed to lose that image after a series of accidents and incidents and, to its disadvantage and chagrin, has never succeeded in recreating it.
REN van DRUENEN
Search for Russian information
Sir - I refer to the article "Electro-impulse de-icing is selected for Premier I" (Flight International, 1-7 May, P24).
Many years ago, possibly in the late 1960s, I read about the Russians inventing a low-powered, electro-impulse, de-icing system which used short-duration, high-acceleration, deflection of the leading edge to remove ice. This sounds very much like your description of the system recently developed by Innovative Dynamics of the USA.
I have never been able to find any further details of the Russian invention, and wonder if anyone has any information?
Bombardier Regional Aircraft
Downsview, Ontario, Canada
Source: Flight International