Monday, May 02, 2005

Time Flies

Given the recent airplane theme, I thought ya'll might enjoy this excerpt from "Lean Thinking," written by James Womack and Daniel Jones.

Since it comes in in the middle, I'll give a little background: The concept of Lean Thinking is that the attitude of bigger and faster generally does not equal better and cheaper (and often isn’t really faster anyway). This passage documents how the airline industry sees value (what a customer is willing to pay for) so much differently than do the passengers.

"As frequent users of [airlines] we have long been keeping detailed notes on our experiences and contrasting our own definition of value with that proposed by most companies in this industry. Our equation is very simple: to get from where we are to where we want to be safely with the least hassle at a reasonable price. By contrast, the airlines’ definition seems to involve using their existing assets in the most ‘efficient’ manner, even if we have to visit Timbuktu to get anywhere. They then throw in added features- like executive lounges in their hubs and elaborate entertainment systems in every seat- in hopes the inconvenience will be tolerable.”

The authors then describe a recent 350-mile trip between two small cities with small airports. The trip, including driving time from the small city to the large one, took seven hours (whereas a very expensive direct charter flight would have only taken 2 hours.)

“Why aren’t airlines… and airframe builders like Boeing and Airbus working on low-cost, point-to-point services using smaller jets instead of developing ever-larger aircraft? And why aren’t they developing quick turnaround systems for small jets at small airports instead of constructing Taj Mahal terminals at the absurd ‘hubs’…(One hour of the seven hours spent on the trip just cited was taxiing time in the Detroit hub and a second was occupied with self-sortation inside the terminal.)”

I don't see how anyone who's ever had to run from one end of a major airport like O'Hare to the other to make a flight just to find that the gate was rerouted to the gate next door to your arriving flight could ever disagree.

3 Comments:

At 9:12 AM, Blogger Tyler said...

Look up Southwest and Skywest. They're both doing just that.

Southwest has a standardized fleet of small airliners (all 737s), and operates in a fundamentally different way. Rather than operate in a hub-and-spoke system like most airlines, Southwest focuses on city pairs. That translates into longer layovers for passengers, but quicker turnarounds, less ground crews, and lower operating costs.

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

Speaking of Southwest and Skywest, aren't they the only airlines making any money? Maybe it will take a few major bankruptcies before big airlines rethink their strategy.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Maine Man said...

These two prove that the idea works. The authors are talking about going even further. Smaller jets and smaller airports.

 

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