In December of 1994,
MediaNomics reported that when network news shows reported on the
airline industry, they invariably looked at airlines that were
losing money instead of the smaller airlines that were growing. This
exclusive focus on unprofitable airlines made deregulation look like
a disaster, when in fact it had been enormously beneficial to
passengers by spawning innovations and allowing younger airlines to
compete against entrenched carriers.
On the April 19 CBS Evening
News, Paula Zahn broke with this tendency. Her extended segment
focused on Southwest Airlines and its unorthodox CEO, Herb Kelleher.
"Southwest has carved out a niche for itself as a low-cost,
no-frills, short-haul carrier," Zahn reported. "It has become the
eighth-largest airline, with flights to 50 cities."
Kelleher explained that
Southwest doesn't assign seating so that "we return our planes more
quickly, so that they can stay in the air more and generate more
revenue each day," which allows Southwest to charge lower fares.
"And what's good for passengers has been good for Kelleher and for
Southwest," Zahn pointed out, "which recently announced its 24th
straight year of profitability, a record unmatched by any other
airline." Kelleher also said that the bigger airlines spent four
years in litigation trying to keep Southwest out of the industry.
Zahn made clear that their
failure to keep Southwest down has been a boon for passengers.
"Southwest has had the fewest customer complaints and the number one
on-time record for the last five years, according to the Department
of Transportation," she noted.
The May 13 NBC Nightly News
informed viewers about the Family Friendly Workplace Act. "On
Capitol Hill today a debate that goes to the heart of what's
important more time or more money in the workplace," began Tom
Brokaw. "Under consideration, in the Senate, a bill that could give
hourly workers more freedom of choice."
Lisa Myers then introduced
Lisa Montenegro, "a paralegal and a single parent." According to
Myers, "She'd like to trade overtime pay for more time off," but
cannot because of existing labor law.
Montenegro told NBC
viewers: "My ideal day would be more flexibility. Maybe some comp
time to allow me when I've come in and worked really hard on an
assignment, I've accrued some hours or something I can take some
Myers explained that "right
now federal law prohibits companies from offering hourly workers
paid time off instead of overtime. A bill before the Senate would
change that and give those who work extra hours the choice overtime
pay at 1.5 times their hourly pay, or 1.5 hours of time off instead.
It also provides for flex time." She noted that "many government
workers have had these options for years."
Concluded Myers: "The bill
is now stalled in the Senate, with Republicans and business lined up
for it, Democrats and labor unions against, and the President
threatening a veto. So for now, Andrew's karate classes and swimming
classes will have to wait. His mom's work schedule won't allow it."