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Experts Warn “Outsourcing” by Airlines Could Lead to Safety, Customer Service Issues

More outsourcing sought by major airlines
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

If many of the major airlines have their way, you’ll never deal with “them” again.   Good or Bad?

The consumer advocacy group Flyers Rights is reporting very soon United Airlines is going to seek to outsource, or subcontract,  virtually all of it’s services to other companies.  About the only thing they will still be doing is flying the airplanes. United and other carriers plan to explore this option in virtually all non-union markets, where union contracts are not a factor for airline employees.

From ticket check-in, to baggage, to boarding and de-boarding,  you will be dealing with another company, or companies.   While the carriers say this will save money, and potentially allow for reduced ticket prices and better services, it could open up a can of worms. It could even apply (and already has in some markets) to outsourcing regional flights to smaller, less experienced carriers.

What if there’s an issue with your ticket?  Boarding?  logistics?   The airline will say, “sorry, not us.  That’s ______ company.”    With so many middlemen, it could lead to slowdowns and confusion.  Flyers Rights also says the big carriers have already started this sub-contracting to cover smaller less profitable air routes:

 “…when the airlines farm out flying to their regional ‘partners’,  the captain is making less money than the flight attendants. The airlines like the extra profits, but blame the regionals for problems, saying “sorry, that’s a different company”. (Bold lettering added for emphasis).


Flyers Rights warns even the Government Accounting Office is concerned increased subcontracting could lead to poor working conditions and decreased safety.   Did you know up until a few years ago, even security screeners were paid the same wage as fast food workers in the same airports?   This was due in part to outsourcing.
 They also talk about what is called a “virtual airline.”   It’s one that has outsourced as much of it’s services as possible.   But this can lead to dangerous results.  Flyers Rights and the New York Times reported recently on the European commuter airline Manx2.  The airline began offering service around Ireland and the British Isles in 2010.   The airline was noted for putting it’s logo on everything from passenger headrests to pilots ties!   The airline boasted ‘passenger safety and security’ were it’s primary goals.
 But then in 2011, one of it’s planes crashed in Cork, Ireland, killing the pilots and four passengers.   Manx2  officials then said it wasn’t an airline at all, it was just a ticket seller – because of all the outsourcing,  someone else was responsible for the crash!  Turns out it was owned by a Spanish bank, outsourced to another Spanish company, who then outsourced to other firms for planes, pilots, crew etc.   Smoke and mirrors.
 Flyers Rights says the same thing could potentially happen here in the U.S.  if the big carriers continue to pursue outsourcing.   They ended their weekly newsletter with this cryptic statement:
“Just as that smaller jet or turboprop that takes you from your hometown to the bigger city or another larger airport may say Delta, United or American (Airlines) on it’s side,  it’s probably a much smaller subcontracted carrier often with older planes, and pilots with much less experience.”


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