The Turbulent Truth: Are Airlines Really Ready for a Supercharged Summer?

By Blain Rethmeier

Published June 18, 2024

Welcome back to the second installment of “Obvious Omissions,” where I reveal stories that leave me questioning the truth. As I boarded a flight to Denver on Sunday night, only to be promptly asked to deboard due to a weather issue, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at The Denver Post story which ran last week entitled, “Airlines say they’re ready for a super-charged summer season. Are travelers?”

The article paints a very rosy picture of the airline industry’s readiness for a summer travel surge following a record-breaking Memorial Day weekend. Airlines for America, the airline industry’s trade association, forecasted a 6.3% increase in air travel compared to last summer. I’m sure these optimistic projections are real, but are they the whole truth and why does a bump in travel equate to readiness for the airlines?

Having worked for the travel industry and served as a reputational PR advisor for numerous corporate clients (including a major airline), I know the importance of authenticity and transparency when it comes to communicating to your audience. Travelers, in particular, value honesty and loathe “friction” when it comes to airports and travel. I can see the benefit in highlighting that airlines are hiring more staff and promoting mobile apps as a way to streamline the travel experience, but I also think it is important that the airlines acknowledge not every aspect of a “supercharged” travel season is within their control in the same breath.

To their credit, I liked how the Southwest Airlines spokesman candidly stated that his airline has dealt with the fallout from storms in both Texas and Denver, leading to hundreds of delays. This was an honest acknowledgment that inclement weather is something the most well-prepared airline cannot overcome. Unfortunately, this was buried at the very end of the story. 

Here’s the bottom line: The messages you convey matter and a blanket headline about being “supercharged” is misleading and not real. As a frequent traveler, I appreciate transparency and honesty and think airlines can build more trust with their customer base with a dose of more realistic expectations. This way, we can all navigate the friendly skies with a bit more ease.

Blain Rethmeier

Blain Rethmeier is a self-described adrenaline junkie who thrives on stepping into high- stakes challenges.

Whether its public affairs, government or crisis communications, Blain has more than 20 year’s experience as a trusted advisor to Fortune 500 companies, C-suite executives and startup CEOs in Silicon Valley.

He has also worked at the highest levels of government, including The White House, U.S. Department of Justice and both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Additionally, he has worked on behalf of many highly regulated industries, helping to educate policymakers, consumers and influencers through compelling messaging, data, research and public-facing campaigns. 

Blain has a deep understanding of the political landscape and the policy-making process, as well as a strong network of contacts and relationships across various industries and sectors. Prior to joining the 76 Group, Blain served as vice president of public affairs for Hims & Hers, where he helped the telemedicine startup expand to all 50 states while increasing their services to include primary care and mental health amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

A native of Colorado, Blain returned to the state in 2022 to work with the 76 Group and its increasingly diverse roster of clients. Blain also works for Blitz and helps oversee its national training program for the many canvassing teams it employs.

Blain, who has two sons and a daughter, lives in Cherry Creek with his fiancée from Brazil, Gisele, and their ragdoll cat Nikki. When he’s not working, he’s outdoors doing something physical, including training for the 50k race he intends to run when he turns 50.