[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/25/art.plane.gi.jpg caption="Flying might get harder."](CNN) - What if I told you the cattle call of air travel is going to get worse? You’d probably believe me if you’ve traveled recently.
But you might not realize just how bad it could get because you might not know just how bad things have already gotten. The airlines are getting pounded. They’re losing tons of money. Their stock prices are down. Several have already gone belly-up.
But almost every move the airlines make to turn things around is likely to make flying more expensive, less convenient and increasingly difficult for average travelers like you and me.
There are a lot of reasons for this, of course, but the main one is the cost of jet fuel. It’s taking off faster than an empty 737. The price is up more than 50 percent this year. That’s tough stuff if you’re trying to run a business.
So what are the airlines doing about it? They’re cutting back on flights, trying to raise fares and throwing a bunch of new surcharges and fees at us. They’re grounding inefficient planes and laying off workers. And – the part that will have really long term impact – they’re merging. Delta and Northwest want to become one airline because they think by combining forces they can save a billion dollars and have a route structure that will be more efficient and more competitive. Other big mergers may be in the wings.
But what’s good for them may not be good for the rest of us. Fewer planes and routes? Hope you like to travel at 6 a.m. on Sundays. Fewer workers? Oh, that’ll make for more efficient check-in!
I just pray they’re not cutting the jobs of all those nice people who are supposed to be doing the maintenance, changing the oil and keeping the engines bolted firmly in place.
So we are left to wonder - what if all this cost cutting and corporate consolidation becomes the next big trend, the airlines’ hottest ticket since frequent flier upgrades?
It’s a real possibility. It would change the face of flying, put the passenger in even more peril.
Maybe it’s time for that passenger Bill of Rights with its do’s and don’t’s for airlines – and some teeth to give the consequences a little bite.
Too bad consumers can’t merge into a giant corporation. At least we’d stand a fighting chance.
Related: Watch Frank Sesno's what if: flying got worse?