Most of us are at the complete mercy of the airlines we fly. When things go wrong I’m a big fan of taking matters into your own hands as much as possible. Know what your alternate flight options are and suggest those instead of relying on airline agents to find you the best flights. Be willing to book alternatives yourself and seek compensation later, including from your credit card company.
At the end of the day though there’s only so much we can do. And if requests for compensation are denied we can only be persistent, or perhaps sue in small claims court where the law frequently being on the side of an airline may not matter as much.
One man though took a different approach.
LAM Mozambique Airlines dates to 1936, established by the Portuguese colonial government. The official language of Mozambique is still Portuguese though it’s spoken primarily as a second language there. The airline hubs in Maputo. Just last year the ban on Mozambique airlines flying to the EU was lifted, so you’d expect things to be looking up.
The carrier, though, is mostly state-owned (with some shares held by employees) and has operated at a self-reported loss for most years this decade. They have half a dozen aircraft including a Boeing 737 and a 757. That’s a far cry from having once operated a 747, DC10, L1011, and 767s.
LAM 767 in 1993, credit: Pedro Aragão
They’ve been suffering financial difficulties, and of course the Mozambique government isn’t as wealthy as some states supporting national carriers. Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, and per capita GDP is under $600.
This past week the airline cancelled flights because they were unable to pay for fuel. They stranded the country’s prime minister. So he fired the entire board of the airline.
The board of Mozambique’s national airline, LAM, has been sacked after the carrier cancelled flights this week because of financial difficulties that meant it could not pay for fuel, at one point marooning Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario.
State-controlled LAM said it was working to ensure flights resumed on Friday after the government intervention.
While politicians in the U.S. are granted tremendous air travel perks they don’t have the ability to directly remove airline executives — although in fact the US government exercises discretion over what airlines are permitted to fly, including basing that decision on the executives involved in the endeavor. Top executives at all of the major airlines involved in air mail contracts in the early 30s were banned from the industry. Bill Boeing was pushed into early retirement. United’s President even left the country.
Still I think I’d settle for a prompt response to my customer service complaint emails when my flights cancel.