Whenever something happens that generates a lot of attention, you can count on a lot of expert commentary. In some cases, the expert really merits the label and is worth a listen. But most so-called experts fit into one of two other categories.
First is the instant expert who knows little but has a lot to say. All those water cooler experts on gymnastics and diving who will comment during the Olympics are the best example of this.
The second, and more insidious kind, are those who seek to take advantage of a difficult situation by fanning flames of fear, seeking to draw attention to themselves. An example of this kind of expert is the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) which is trying to use the current aviation industry crisis caused by high fuel prices to breed fear in communities around the country and make a name for themselves in the process.
The BTC has conducted a study, which is what this kind of “expert” usually does. They have decided to list dozens of airports they say will be losing their service. They call this effort “Save My Airport.”
I just returned from a meeting with dozens of airport directors, most in smaller communities that are at risk. Indeed, all have lost some service. But all of them, and their communities, together with their airline partners, are working hard to keep their communities linked to the air travel system. They all know, as do their constituents, that there is a fuel crisis, that times have changed, and that innovative action is called for. They are working to protect their communities and their economic growth.
What they don’t need is an organization a thousand miles away jumping in and fanning into fear their community’s legitimate concerns about air service. What they don’t need is an organization looking for attention, and revenue, by taking advantage of a crisis.
I went to their web site. It includes an ominous heading: “Airports at Risk.” It has a list of 50. I have spoken to some of those airport directors and they are outraged by what BTC is doing. BTC has no idea what is going on in their communities, and is hampering their efforts to meet the challenges they face. All BTC has are some criteria they made up in their ivory tower and a study that results from putting those criteria into a computer and pushing a button. They have no idea what is going on in those communities.
That is also obvious when you click on some of the links under the ominous headlines that predict the demise of this or that airport. The actual news items they are linked to tell stories of communities working hard. In at least one case, the link takes you to a story featuring an airport director saying the BTC is wrong. But you have to dig deep to find this. What they want you to do is read their headlines, get scared, and send an email and “sign up.” Must be time for a BTC membership drive.
Someone once said that an expert is someone more than 50 miles from home. I guess by that definition the BTC qualifies. But by no other.