Hang around the airline industry long enough and you hear stories of the Good Old Days. In the Good Old Days, CEOs were selfless, employees were cheerful and passengers dressed up to fly. Management and union workers got along like family, and stewardesses cooked eggs-to-order in first class. Airlines cared about people, not numbers, and every flight was a wonderful travel experience ? even in coach. Or so the story goes.

Does anybody actually remember the Good Old Days? Were they ever a reality? I don't know. All I know is that when I look at the airline industry today, I see nothing but dissatisfaction. Customers are unhappy, stockholders are nervous, management is desperate and union workers are furious. Flying is no longer a gracious extension of personal service, but a desperate, numbers-driven game in profit and loss. A cattle car might serve just as well.

How did it get this bad? And who is to blame? Greedy unions? Greedy managers? Some officious bureau of the government? Yes, all of the above have some share in the blame. But I have recently taken a harder look at another villain, who also bears some responsibility for this mess. And that villain is you.

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