Two months ago, I took a flight back from Houston, Texas, to Fort Myers. I never get a chance to sit in First Class. But I had an excess of travel miles. So, I took the upgrade opportunity. I usually just write in silence or read while I’m on a plane. But on this particular day, the customers behind me had a special surprise. Before the flight, the two of them had split a bottle of Jack Daniels at the airport bar. They… were on “vacation.”
Airlines Are in Trouble
If you haven’t seen the stories already, passengers have been unruly since the reopening of the economy started. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has already received more than 3,100 complaints about unruly behavior among passengers in 2021.
American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) and Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) recently ceased in-flight alcohol service. It’s possible that those drinks in the sky might not come back. In the case of my flight, United was still serving. I’ve heard four-letter words at National Football League games. I’ve listened to them screamed in moments of fear or anger. I hadn’t heard them every other sentence at full blast in a flying tube 30,000 feet above the ground.
As the plane was landing and it was time to stow electronic devices and sit down, the well-lubricated traveler (in 3A) was screaming over my shoulder at the man in front of me. I was in 2A. The person in 1 A was wearing a hat with the New York Rangers on the back. “How did you get into hockey, bro?” the man kept yelling. “Hey, I’m asking you ‘bout hockey!”
The man in front of me never replied. That went on for about 10 minutes. And did I mention that I didn’t have one of those headphone converters for my Samsung phone so that I could listen to music? Yes, that was fun.
That’s Not the Only Problem
This year, the FAA has fined travelers a combined $560,000. Passengers are refusing to wear face masks and getting violent. I’ve seen a lot of verbal abuse. I hear child-like screaming. Southwest reported that one flyer recently punched a flight attendant in the face and knocked out her two front teeth. “It’s out of control,” a spokesperson for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants recently told CNBC. Gee, do you think? But it’s not just the passengers that are creating problems. Airlines are also facing an incredible staff shortage.
It was already happening before all of this unruly behavior started. American Airlines is already canceling hundreds of flights due to a lack of available workers. Southwest Airlines blamed digital problems due to hundreds of cancelations last week. This is all happening at a time that airlines are trying to accommodate an uptick in demand.
Delta Airlines (NYSE:DAL) and JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU) appear to be the ones currently recruiting with success right now. But this entire industry appears to be a mess. I’ve never seen airports more crowded. And I’ve never seen a group of people (the crew) less excited to see other people (the passengers) arrive to their place of work. I think this is going to take a long time to repair.
Three Things I’m Thinking About on Wednesday
- I’m not sure how you feel about Dr. Anthony Fauci. There seems to be a revolt against him in some circles. He said yesterday that the new Delta variant is the “greatest threat” to the United States’ effort to eliminate COVID-19. Based on my conversations with colleagues in the U.K. and India, I’m inclined to believe that the market isn’t pricing in that risk whatsoever.
- Insider buying struck again on Tuesday night. Shares of SeaChange (NASDAQ:SEAC) popped more than 23% in premarket hours after the CEO bought a lot of stock. Remember, no one knows the actual value of a company’s stock better than the executive suite. I’m always following the CEOs and CFOs for clues on where their stocks could go next.
- Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said it’s doubtful that the United States will see “1970s style inflation.” Well, I didn’t live through that type of inflation, but this is still pretty bad. My concern right now is not so much inflation as it is in the labor markets. The U.S. labor market is heavily focused on service-related jobs. We’re not adding those. Hundreds of thousands of retail employees quit in April, and they’re likely not heading back. This is going to create severe problems for small businesses across the United States.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a conversation about my favorite commodity for 2021.