25.11.05

THINKING LIKE A RAILROAD. The Onion imagines a macabre cost-cutting strategy.

A 737 traveling from Cincinnati to Salt Lake City was lost with all passengers and crew Monday when cash-strapped Delta Airlines, the aircraft's operator, canceled Flight 1060 en route.

According to a statement from Delta, the midair cancellation was made as part of the company's plan to cut continental service by 25 percent and emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy with an economically viable business strategy."

Delta Airlines regrets any inconvenience to our valued customers," the statement read in part. "Unfortunately, in today's uncertain economy, service interruptions and cancellations are inevitable."

I wonder if a writer for Onion is familiar with the history of the passenger train. In the late 1960s, the Louisville and Nashville annulled the Pan-American at Montgomery, Alabama, where the train would lay over to be combined with the Crescent Limited (in those days an interline operation) to finish its run to New Orleans. Passengers were put on a bus. The annullment enabled the railroad to terminate a passenger train in the interval between expiration of a restraining order and an appeal to a higher court. The railroad could then argue that any further restraining orders were moot, as no other Pan-American was running.

Not long after that, the Burlington killed the Billings-Alliance local under similar conditions, delaying a number of passengers somewhere in northwestern Nebraska until buses could be arranged. Among the passengers on that train was Representative Glenn Cunningham (once an Olympian runner) who made a federal case out of train discontinuances upon his return to Washington.

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