Crash and Burn

I’m clearly behind the times, because until I saw this infographic today, I didn’t know that American Airlines went bankrupt in November. It made me a tiny bit sad, and not because I’m so out of touch when it comes to transportation news . It’s not that I had any loyalty toward American Airlines. I don’t even fly that often. It’s just sad to see an old institution just die like that.

My grandfather worked for the airline industry at one point. I’m not exactly sure which airlines besides Lufthansa and possibly Pan Am. Whichever they were, it was back when people dressed up for flights and there were incredibly sexist standards for hiring what were then called stewardesses. In fact, my aunt once applied for a stewardess job only to be told that her waist was too big.

Eventually, women had to go get rights and stuff and stewardesses were replaced by women and men, both with imperfect measurements. Travelers got sloppier with their wardrobes because no one needed to impress the new “flight attendants”. Without the promise of hot chicks serving you drinks, fewer people chose to fly, so airlines had to lower their ticket prices in order to win back their customers. That worked for a while, but there’s only so low an airline can go. Feminism: it’s why you have to pay additional baggage fees.

Don’t let the liberal media tell you otherwise.

Obviously, I kid. There are many external reasons for the downfall of air travel, as shown in this handy . Yet I can’t help but wonder if the airlines themselves should share some of the blame. I’m probably just bitter about the fuel shortage and the maintenance issue and the subsequently missed connecting flight and being on standby for the next flight only to be bumped to a third flight which was then canceled with the next available flight being three days later which led to me calling a different airport an hour from my actual destination so I could get a flight that landed there instead and then being put on standby for that flight that luckily had room for me and the 12 hours I spent in the Philadelphia airport experiencing this mess.

On the other hand, if a company can’t function properly, maybe it’s not so bad if they just cut their losses. Look at Pan Am. They went under in 1991 but the Pan Am in the public consciousness isn’t some sad, dead company. It’s the glamorous playground of tiny-waisted stewardesses in scratchy-looking suits and famous men played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe American Airlines had something interesting in its past that would make a good TV mini-series. I have no idea.

I do have a feeling that USAir is next. But I’m just biased.

 Contributing writer Megan Robb is a writer, consultant and editor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her articles can be found at,, and, as well as her personal website,