The Next Crash by Amy L Fraher

At first glance, The Next Crash reads very much like a college thesis: a student thought it would be interesting to compare two ‘crashes’ (airline and stock market) and draw parallels. And indeed, the first few chapters do feel a academic in that way. But once you get further into the book, it becomes clear this is a well researched analysis of the airline industry from an insider who was trusted with honest responses to interviews. Though very dry, it is an interesting read.

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The emphasis (and perhaps bias) is clear: airline employees are the real casualty of the post 9/11 cost cutting era. Perhaps the marked difference between the finance and airline crashes is that huge executive benefit packages are siphoned from the clients in finance and the employees in the airline industry. The result is that safety in investments and safety in flying are the ultimate prices paid in order to pay the million and billion dollar payouts to executives.

Surprisingly, this book feels much more a cry for help to the industry rather than a Ralph Nader expose in the vein of “Collision Course’. The rape of the employees, callous handling of individual airlines by pirate executives, and bureaucratic inefficiency of government agencies who were supposed to oversee/protect the consumers are all the real meat of the book. Safety is never discussed as anything more than collateral damage to this mindset. Technical issues or specific dangerous situations aren’t discussed (though several plane crashes related to poor pilot training and the advent of poorly monitored regional airlines are discussed).

The book covers a lot of history in the course of the observations: the glamorous era to the 1960s, deregulation and transformation to air shuttle bus type flying in the 1970s, and post 9/11 cost cutting/bankruptcy/mismanagement are interesting stages well presented. I appreciated that perspective and the author’s hope for some kind of balance between all three stages.

What I most took away from the book is that the airline industry really is a close parallel to the finance industry – too much looting, raping, and obscenely overpaid executives finding creative ways to line their own pockets. All those lead as a by-product to reduced safety and terrible experiences that may not justify the lower prices we are paying for tickets currently.

Interestingly enough, I read this across two transatlantic flights – one on a domestic carrier and one on a foreign. It’s not the type of read that is scary or that you feel your plane will fall out of the sky at any moment. Rather, it gives you more appreciation of the people working for the airlines as they do their job on your flight.

Reviewed from an ARC.

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