GREAT AVIATION QUOTES
Bums on Seats


Bums on Seats was how Captain Eddie Rickenbacker of Eastern Airlines liked to describe the airline business. I’ve been an airline pilot since the early 1990’s, so this part of the aviation quotation collection showcases the industy that provides my paycheck. These are my favourite air lines:

You cannot compete in time with airlines on transcontinental runs, but [trains] can outstrip them in comfort, safety, dependability of service, and also show the passenger the countryside. This, we believe, is a permanent market.

Edward G. Budd Jr, speech before the American Association of Passenger Traffic Officers, Chicago, 24 April 1957.

I was engaged in what I believe to be the most thrilling industry in the world — aviation. My heart still leaps when I see a tiny two-seater plane soaring gracefully through the sky. Our great liners awe me even today.

William A. 'Pat' Patterson, President United Airlines. Minute Editorial titled It Takes Time To Grow An Oak in The Rotarian magazine, March 1951.

It Takes Time to Grow an Oak

A commercial aircraft is a vehicle capable of supporting itself aerodynamically and economically at the same time.

Attributed to William B. Stout, designer of the Ford Tri-Motor.

As things are, flying is too expensive a mode of transport to be considered by the ordinary man or woman. To the great majority with means, the deafening roar of the engines, the sense of danger, the great uncertainty, added to the not inconsiderable fare, more than balance the possible gain in time…

The force of gravity ever pulling the plane and its load to earth, will ever set a limit to the achievements of aircraft and be an insurmountable barrier to commercial success in the air.

Credited to a writer called Neon, The Future of Aerial Transport, The Atlantic Monthly magazine, January 1928.

First Europe, and then the globe, will be linked by flight, and nations so knit together that they will grow to be next-door neighbours. This conquest of the air will prove, ultimately, to be man’s greatest and most glorious triumph. What railways have done for nations, airways will do for the world.

Claude Grahame-White and Harry Harer, last paragraph of last chapter, The Aeroplane, 1914.

The Aeroplane 1914

The passenger jet was, and still is, one of the wonders of the world, a world whose other wonders the jet made accessible. Along with the personal computer, it ranks as the greatest technological innovation of the second half of the twentieth century. The computer turned your lowly desk into a cross between Harvard and Hollywood. The jet turned you into an adventurer. It freed you from the shackles of that desk and set you free to roam the world, to become a Lindbergh, an Earhart, a James Bond, and, if you had enough money and time, a jet-setter.

Willian Stadiem, first paragraph of the introduction to Jet Set: The People, The Planes, The Glamour, and The Romance in Aviation’s Glory Years. 2014.

Once you get hooked on the airline business, it’s worse than dope. It’s awful hard to get out. It’s got everything you would want for excitement: a capitalintensive, labor-intensive, around-the-clock service business. It calls on all your skills as an executive.

Ed Acker, Chairman of Air Florida, on accepting the job of running Pan Am. Interview in The New York Times, 28 August 1981.

I was thinking about finding a more challenging job, and I asked about being the captain of the Titanic. But they said I was years too late. So I decided to take the job of Pan Am chairman.

Ed Acker, Chairman of Air Florida, on accepting the job of running Pan American World Airways. Interview in The New York Times, 28 August 1981.

Nobody can make money in the goddamn airline business these days. The economics represent sheer hell.

C. R. Smith, former President of American Airlines, in a Time magazine interview published 19 January 1970.

A recession is when you have to tighten your belt. A depression is when you have no belt to tighten. When you’ve lost your trousers — you’re in the airline business!

Sir Adam Thomson, founder and chairman of British Caledonian. Quoted in The State of Britian’s airways, The Illustrated London News 1 April 1983

You cannot get one nickel for commercial flying.

Inglis M. Uppercu, founder of Aeromarine West Indies Airways, the first American airline to last more than a couple of months, 1923. Quoted in A Brief History of Flight From Balloons to Mach 3 and Beyond, 2001.

Maybe it's sex appeal, but there's something about an airplane that drives investors crazy.

Alfred Kahn, often called the father of airline deregulation. Quoted in World Airline Cooperation Review, International Air Transport Association, Public Information Department, 1975.

If the Wright brothers were alive today Wilbur would have to fire Orville to reduce costs.

Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines, USA Today newspaper, 8 June 1994.

The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.

Warren Buffett, annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, February 2008.

This industry attracts more capital than it deserves.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of EasyJet, reported in Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, 5 October 2009.

Running an airline is like having a baby: fun to conceive, but hell to deliver.

C. E. Woolman, principal founder Delta Air Lines. Cited by the Delta Flight Museum..

Airplanes are more or less standard. Fares are uniform. Competitive services are often available. The quality of Delta's service, the attitude of its people, will determine who gets the business.

C. E. Woolman, principal founder Delta Air Lines. August 1946. Cited by the Delta Flight Museum..

People who invest in aviation are the biggest suckers in the world.

David Neeleman, after raising a record $128 million to start New Air (the then working name for what became JetBlue Airways), quoted in Business Week magazine, 3 May 1999.

Since 1978 the record pretty well shows that no start-up airline … has really been successful, so the odds of JetBlue having long-term success are remote. I’m not going to say it can’t happen because stranger things have happened, but I personally believe P.T. Barnum was, in that respect, correct.

Gordon Bethune, CEO Continental Airlines, regards the 70% rise in JetBlue's stock price in the days after its IPO. Comment at Continental’s annual shareholder meeting, 17 April 2002.

As of 1992, in fact—though the picture would have improved since then—the money that had been made since the dawn of aviation by all of this country's airline companies was zero. Absolutely zero.

Sizing all this up, I like to think that if I’d been at Kitty Hawk in 1903 when Orville Wright took off, I would have been farsighted enough, and public-spirited enough—I owed this to future capitalists—to shoot him down. I mean, Karl Marx couldn't have done as much damage to capitalists as Orville did.

Warren Buffett, billionaire investor, interview in Fortune magazine, 22 November 1999.

I don’t think JetBlue has a better chance of being profitable than 100 other predecessors with new airplanes, new employees, low fares, all touchy-feely … all of them are losers. Most of these guys are smoking ragweed.

Gordon Bethune, CEO Continental Airlines, Time magazine, June 2002.

If the employees come first, then they are happy. A motivated employee treats the customer well. The customer is happy so they keep coming back, which pleases the shareholders. It's not one of the enduring green mysteries of all time, it is just the way it works.

Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines CEO, quoted in A Conversation with Herb Kelleher, Organizational Dynamics, volume 23, issue 2, Autumn 1994.

Loyal employees in any company create loyal customers, who in turn create happy shareholders.

Sir Richard Branson, founder and CEO Virgin Atlantic Airways, 2001.

Every other start-up wants to be another United or Delta or American. We just want to get rich.

Robert Priddy, CEO ValuJet, 1996.

I’m flying high and couldn't be more confident about the future.

Freddy Laker, founder of Laker Airways, three days before the collapse of Laker Airways, 3 February 1982.

This is a nasty, rotten business.

Robert L. Crandall, CEO & President of American Airlines, 1994. Quoted in the book Hard Landing, 1995.

They don’t realize that while you’re sitting here talking, someone is fucking you. Changing a fare, changing a flight, moving something. There's no autopilot, and that's why I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go.

Gordon Bethune, CEO Continental Airlines, regards his peers at other airlines, Fortune magazine 18 October 2004.

The airline business is crazy. I’ve not been enamored with the industry in general. You can't depend on anybody and anything. It's dog-eat-dog and one thing or another from one minute to the next. What I understand about it, I don’t like what I see.

Robert Brooks, Hooters Air owner, The Sun News newspaper, 21 March 2006.

Most executives don’t have the stomach for this stuff.

Robert W. Baker, President of American Airlines. Quoted in Hard Landing, 1995.

The secret of this business is you’ve got to have a defensive strategy, as well as an offensive strategy.

Fred Smith, founder and CEO of FedEx, The Wall Street Journal newspaper, 14 July 2010.

Today, the situation is exacerbated with costs exceeding revenues at four times the pre-September 11 rate. Today, we are literally hemorrhaging money. Clearly this bleeding has to be stopped — and soon — or United will perish sometime next year.

James Goodwin, chairman and CEO of United's parent company UAL. The unions of the (at the time) employee owned company forced his replacement. 17 October, 2001

I didn't take this job to preside over a bankruptcy. I refuse to accept that United Airlines is collateral damage from Sept. 11.

Jack Creighton, new chairman and CEO of UAL Corporation, 28 October 2001. UAL entered bankruptcy on 9 December 2002.

More than any other sphere of activity, aerospace is a test of strength between states, in which each participant deploys his technical and political forces.

French Parliamentary report, 1977

Investing in success is not a crime; blocking competition would be. The dark clouds of protectionism are gathering over Europe and the United States.

James Hogan, CEO Etihad Airways, regards complaints of unfair business tactics by American Airlines, Delta, United, Air France and Lufthansa. Industy speech, 27 March 2015.

It is obvious we are fighting for the Air France Group… But in actual fact, we are also fighting for France.

Christian Blanc, Chairman Air France, 1996.

The game we are playing is closest to the old game of Christians and lions.

Robert Crandall, CEO & President of American Airlines, speech to American’s top marketing executives, February 1981. Quoted in the book Hard Landing, 1995.

The airline business is fast-paced, high risk, and highly leveraged. It puts a premium on things I like to do. I think I communicate well. And I am very good at detail. I love detail.

Robert Crandall, CEO & President of American Airlines. Quoted in the book Hard Landing, 1995.

I think it’s dumb as hell, for Christ’s sake all right, to sit here and pound the shit out of each other and neither one of us making a fucking dime.

Well —

I mean, goddamn! What the fuck is the point of it?

Nobody asked American to serve Harlingen. Nobody asked American to serve Kansas City… If you’re going to overlay every route of American’s on top of every route that Braniff has, I can't just sit here and allow you to bury us without giving you our best effort.

Oh sure, but Eastern and Delta do the same thing in Atlanta and have for years.

Do you have a suggestion for me?

Yes, I have a suggestion for you. Raise your goddamn fares twenty percent. I’ll raise mine the next morning. you’ll make more money and I will too.

Robert, we can't talk about pricing.

Oh, bullshit, Howard. We can talk about any goddamn thing we want to talk about.

Robert L. Crandall and Howard Putnam, telephone conversation on or about 21 February 1982. From United States v. American Airlines Inc. and Robert L. Crandall, U.S. District Court, CA383-0325D.

Freddie Laker
May be at peace with his Maker.
But he is persona non grata
With IATA.

HRH Duke of Edinburgh. Quoted by R. E. G. Davies, Curator of Air Transport at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, in Airlines of the Jet Age: A History, 2001.

People Express is clearly the archetypical deregulation success story and the most spectacular of my babies. It is the case that makes me the proudest.

Alfred Kahn, Professor of Political Economy, Cornell University, Time magazine, 13 Jan 1986.

We have to make you think it's an important seat — because you’re in it.

Donald Burr, founder of People Express, 1984. Quoted in Empires of the Sky: The Politics, Contests and Cartels of World Airlines.

I decided there must be room for another airline when I spent two days trying to get through to People Express.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic.

In the ’80’s my gut feeling was that airlines were crap. I hated spending time on planes. I thought we could create the kind of airline I’d like. So we got a secondhand 747 and gave it a go.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic. Interview in Men’s Journal magazine, May 2006.

If Richard Branson had worn a pair of steel-rimmed glasses, a double-breasted suit and shaved off his beard, I would have taken him seriously. As it was I couldn’t … I underestimated him.

Lord King, Chairman of British Airways. Quoted in Dirty Tricks : Inside Story of British Airways' Secret War Against Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic

Richard Branson

The trouble with predators is that they don’t know who's the prey — until he's dead.

Sir Freddie Laker. Quoted in Empires of the Sky: The Politics, Contests and Cartels of World Airlines, 1984.

I really don’t know one plane from the other. To me they are just marginal costs with wings.

Alfred Kahn, Cornell University economist and chief architect of deregulation US airlines. Quoted in New York Times newspaper, 28 December 2010.

I don’t think it's my highest aspiration to make it possible for people to jet all over the world when the future clearly has to belong to substituting telecommunications for travel.

Alfred Kahn, Cornell University economist and chief architect of deregulation US airlines. 2008 interview with The New York Times newspaper from his obituary, published 28 December 2010.

There always has been a mystique and a romance about aviation, but in terms of the principles involved of satisfying your customer there's no difference between selling airlines seats and chocolate bars.

Mike 'Mars Bar' Batt, British Airways' Head of Brands (Marketing) and Director of North American Routes.

I don’t care what you cover the seats with as long as you cover them with assholes.

Eddie Rickenbacker, CEO Eastern Airlines, to the designers proudly showing off the seat cover designs for the the Lockhead Electra, first turboprop airliner to be operated in the United States.

we’re a business-oriented airline. We love all our customers—we just love some more than others, and those are the business travelers.

Jeff Smisek, CEO United Airlines, interview in Fortune magazine, 21 April 2011.

The airline industry is full of bullshitters, liars and drunks. We excel at all three in Ireland.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair CEO.

The unions need to be taken on. British Airways is massively over-staffed and has got to get its costs down… The problem for [chief executive] Willie Walsh is that the board of BA has no spine, no balls and no vision.

Michael O'Leary, CEO Ryanair CEO, The Telegraph newspaper, 24 February 2010.

Air transport is just a glorified bus operation.

Michael O'Leary, CEO Ryanair CEO, quoted in BusinessWeek Online, 12 September 2002.

We should try to eliminate things that unnecessarily piss people off.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair CEO, in an apparent change to their customer service philosophy. At Annual General Meeting, Dublin, 20 Sep 2013.

The thing I miss about Air Force One is they don’t lose my luggage.

President George Bush Sr., in National Geographic televsion special Air Force One, 2001.

I have to say that flying on Air Force One sort of spoils you for coach on a regular airline.

Ronald P. Reagan, interview in The New York Times Magazine, 27 June 2004.

In my own view, it was not merely uncomfortable, it was intolerable. It might perhaps have been endurable for a two-hour flight but an eight-hour flight is a totally different matter.

Judge Gareth Edwards QC, regards JMC's 29-inch seat pitch. The judge upheld a compensation award made to Brian Horan after he suffered deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) on his journey Manchester, England, to the Canadian ski resort of Calgary. Chester County Court, 17 April 2002.

You fucking academic eggheads! You don’t know shit. You can't deregulate this industry. you’re going to wreck it. You don’t know a goddamn thing!

Robert Crandall, CEO American Airlines, addressing a Senate lawyer prior to airline deregulation, 1977.

Deregulation will be the greatest thing to happen to the airlines since the jet engine.

Richard Ferris, CEO United Airlines, 1976.

United has little to fear from numerous small competitors. We should be able to compete effectively by advertising our size, dependability, and experience, and by matching or beating their promotional tactics… . In a free environment, we would be able to flex our marketing muscles a bit and should not fear the treat of being nibbled to death by little operators.

Richard Ferris, CEO United Airlines, 1976.

Total deregulation would allow anybody to fly any route, a situation that is unlikely ever to occur.

James Conaway, in The New York Times newspaper, 9 May 1976.

Deregulation [will] lead to the creation of a couple of General Motorses of the airlines.

Frank Borman, President of Eastern Airlines, in The New York Times newspaper, 9 May 1976.

No one expects Braniff to go broke. No major U.S. carrier ever has.

The Wall Street Journal, 30 July 1980.

America, the land of the free, is turning itself into the land of the free ride. [U.S. airlines] are operating in protected markets. They are hoovering up public funds and they still can't make a profit.

Rod Eddington, CEO British Airways, regards competing against so many bankrupt U.S. airlines, 23 September 2005.

If we went into the funeral business, people would stop dying.

Martin R. Shugrue, Vice-chairman of Pan American World Airways. Quoted in Skygods: The Fall of Pan Am, 1995.

Juan Trippe is thinking about the next decade … If anybody ever flied to the Moon, the very next day Trippe will ask [the Civil Aeronautics Board] to authorize regular service.

James M. Landis, while chairman of the CAB in the 1940’s. Quoted by The New York Times in Juan Trippe’s obituary, 3 April 1981. Originally quoted in Time magazine cover story on Juan Trippe and Pan Am, 28 March 1949.

Pan Am in 2001 movie

Pan Am can go to hell. And let me make it clear that is not a new route.

Alfred E. Kahn, Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board. Quoted in The Washingtonian magazine, 1979.

This is one hell of a good deal for United Airlines.

Richard Ferris, Chairman United Airlines, after buying Pan Am’s Far East route network in 1985. Quoted in Skygods: The Fall of Pan Am, 1995.

It's a great day for TWA.

William Compton, President Trans World Airlines Inc., on the day that U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson approved American Airlines' $200 million emergency financing plan, and cleared the way for the sale of America's longest-flying airline, 27 January, 2001. AMR soon laid off almost every former TWA employee.

If forced to travel on an airplane, try and get in the cabin with the Captain, so you can keep an eye on him and nudge him if he falls asleep or point out any mountains looming up ahead.

Mike Harding, The Armchair Anarchist’s Almanac, 1981.

There is not much to say about most airplane journeys. Anything remarkable must be disastrous, so you define a good flight by negatives: you didn't get hijacked, you didn’t crash, you didn't throw up, you weren’t late, you weren’t nauseated by the food. So you’re grateful.

Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express, 1979.

I don’t mind flying. I always pass out before the plane leaves the ground.

Naomi Campbell, supermodel, 2000.

I feel about airplanes the way I feel about diets. It seems they are wonderful things for other people to go on.

Jean Kerr, The Snake Has All The Lines, 1958.

Twenty-five per cent of the passengers of almost any aircraft show white knuckles on take-off.

Colin Marshall, CEO British Airways.

Ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.

Captain Eric Moody, British Airways, PA to the passengers after flying through volcanic ash in a B-747, British Airways flight 9, 24 June 1982.

The British Islands are small islands and our people numerically a little people. Their only claim to world importance depends upon their courage and enterprise, and a people who will not stand up to the necessity of air service planned on a world scale, and taking over thousands of aeroplanes and thousands of men from the onset of peace, has no business to pretend anything more than a second rate position in the world. We cannot be both Imperial and mean.

H. G. Wells, minority report of the committee to study the development and regulation after the war of aviation for civil and commercial purposes from a domestic, an imperial and an international stand-point, 1917.

It may be questioned whether civil aviation in England is to be regarded as one of those industries which is unable to stand on its own two feet, and is yet so essential to the national welfare that it must be kept alive at all costs.

Major-General Sir Frederick Sykes, first Director of British Civil Aviation, 1919.

The DC-3 freed the air lines from complete dependency on government mail pay. It was the first airplane that could make money just by hauling passengers.

C. R. Smith, president American Airlines. The DC-3 specifications were shaped by AA. Quoted in Ceiling Unlimited: The Story of American Aviation From Kitty Hawk to Supersonics, 1953.

It wasn’t until the jet engine came into being and that engine was coupled with special airplane designs — such as the swept wing — that airplanes finally achieved a high enough work capability, efficiency and comfort level to allow air transportation to really take off.

Joseph F. Sutter, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

We’re going to make the best impression on the traveling public, and we’re going to make a pile of extra dough just from being first.

C. R. Smith, American Airlines, on the introduction of the Boeing 707, in Forbes magazine, 1956.

Its operation in a world beset by fuel and energy crises makes no sense at all.

Senator Cranston of California, regards the Concorde, 1974.

You can be in London at 10 o'clock and in New York at 10 o'clock. I have never found another way of being in two places at once.

Sir David Frost, Concorde regular.

It is a magic aircraft … the pleasure of flying in it is almost a carnal one.

Joelle Cornet-Templet, Air France’s Chief Steward regards Concorde.

An aircraft which is used by wealthy people on their expense accounts, whose fares are subsidized by much poorer taxpayers.

Denis Healey, British Labour Party, regards the Concorde.

Without doubt, Concorde died yesterday at the age of 31. All that will remain is the myth of a beautiful white bird.

Le Figaro newspaper editorial, the day after AF 4590 crashed at takeoff from Charles de Gaulle aerodrome, 26 July 2000.

For those of us who live in the shadow of this noisy monster, there aren’t too many of us who are sorry to see it go.

Anthony D. Weiner, Congressman for the 9th district of New York, regards Concorde.

The Boeing 747 is the commuter train of the global village.

Henk Tennekes, The Simple Science of Flight, 1996.

I don’t believe in being the launch customer for anything.

Carl Michel, Commercial Director British Airways, regards the Airbus A3XX (which was eventually named the A380), February 2000.

We are pleased we haven’t got one on order. It’s too big an aircraft.

Willie Walsh, CEO British Airways, regards the A380. Reported in AW&ST magazine, 21 November 2005.

We have focused on derivatives for several years, but when it’s time to do a new airplane, it’s time to do a new airplane.

Michael B. Bair, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president for business strategy and development, announcing the Sonic Cruiser (which was eventually canceled), 29 March, 2001.

There has always been a certain romanticism associated with the airline business. We must avoid its perpetuation at Eastern at all costs.

Frank Borman, memo to senior Eastern Airlines executives after becoming chairman. Quoted in the book Hard Landing, 1995.

I’m not paid to be a candy ass. I’m paid to go and get a job done. I could have ended up with another job, but the job I ended up with was piecing together a bunch of companies that were all headed for the junk heap … I’ve got to be the bastard who sits around Eastern Airlines and says, ‘hey, we’re losing $3 million a day or whatever the number is and bang, bang, bang, bang, what do you do?’ So, some jobs are easier than others.

Frank Lorenzo, Quoted in Grounded: Frank Lorenzo and the Destruction of Eastern Airlines, 1990.

I can’t imagine a set of circumstances that would produce Chapter 11 for Eastern.

Frank Lorenzo, CEO Eastern Airlines, Reported in Newsweek magazine, volume 107, 1986.

As a businessman, Frank Lorenzo gives capitalism a bad name.

William F. Buckley. Quoted in Aviation and the Role of Government, 2004.

From this day forward, you must assume that Eastern Airlines intends to force a strike, and you must be prepared for the worst.

Charlie Bryan, Eastern Machinists union leader.

We were raped!

Frank Borman, quote to reporters after capitulating to Charlie Bryan’s $170 million wage demands. In his 1988 autobiography Countdown.

Frank is capable of any kind of behavior to win.

Don Burr, regards Frank Lorenzo. Quoted in the book Hard Landing, 1995.

If you would look up bad labor relations in the dictionary, you would have an American Airlines logo beside it.

U.S. District Judge Joe Kendall, issuing a restraining order against an American Airlines APA pilot union sick out, 10 Feb 1999.

The greatest sin of airline management of the last 22 years is to say, “It's all labor's fault.”

Donald Carty, Chairman and CEO American Airlines, 12 August 2002.

Do you know how much faster I can fix an airplane when I want to fix it than when I don’t want to fix it?

Gordon Bethune, CEO Continental Airlines, quoted in Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up, 2002.

It’s like telling Mozart that there are too many notes in an opera. Which one do you want us to take out?

Gordon Bethune, Chairman of Continental Airlines, regards U.S. government criticism that carriers schedule too many flights, quoted in Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up, 2002.

Regulation has gone astray … Either because they have become captives of regulated industries or captains of outmoded administrative agencies, regulators all too often encourage or approve unreasonably high prices, inadequate service, and anticompetitive behavior. The cost of this regulation is always passed on to the consumer. And that cost is astronomical.

Senator Edward Kennedy, opening remarks to the Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure, 6 February 1975.

Whenever competition is feasible it is, for all its imperfections, superior to regulation as a means of serving the public interest.

Alfred Kahn, airline economist & Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board.

This entire industry is in a death spiral, including this company, and I can't get us out of it. Deregulation is an abysmal failure and we have no more furniture left to burn.

Bruce Lakefield, CEO US Airways, while between bankruptcies and before being taken over by America West, October 2004.

Bankruptcy as a solution in kind of un-American.

Tom Horton, Chief Financial Officer American Airlines, reported in USA Today newspaper, 6 April 2006.

British Airways believes that it is intrinsically deceptive for two carriers to share a designator code.

British Airways, comment on PDSR-85, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Docket 42199, 1984.

Code-sharing, alliances, and connections are all about “how do we screw the poor customer for more money?"

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair, quoted in BusinessWeek Online, 12 September 2002.

I’ve tried to make the men around me feel, as I do, that we embarked as pioneers upon a new science and industry in which our problems are so new and unusual that it behooves no one to dismiss any novel idea with the statement that “it can't be done!". Our job is to keep everlasting at research and experimentation, to adapt our laboratories to production as soon as possible, and to let no new improvement in flying and flying equipment pass us by.

William E. Boeing, founder The Boeing Company, 1929.

A sick customer results in a sick airplane manufacturing industry, whatever the cause may be.

John E. Steiner, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. In Jet Aviation Development, A Company Perspective.

We built a jet airplane to get in and out of a 5,000-ft field. No one believed it could be done.

Joseph Sutter, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, regards the B-727.

This is the most important aviation development since Lindbergh’s flight. In one fell swoop, we have shrunken the earth.

Juan Trippe, founder of Pan Am on the introduction of jet aircraft.

Pan Am groovy

If someone wanted to pay £5 to go to the toilet I would carry them myself. I would wipe their bums for a fiver.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair CEO. Quoted in The Guardian newspaper, 3 June 2009.

I don’t give a toss where people want to go. I’m in the business of creating a market for people to go where they have never heard of.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair CEO. Quoted in The Guardian newspaper, 3 June 2009.

We don’t fall over ourselves if they say ‘my Granny fell ill’. What part of no refund don’t you understand? You are not getting a refund so fuck off.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair CEO. Quoted in The Guardian newspaper, 3 June 2009.

If the pilots were in charge, Columbus would still be in port. They believe the assertion that the world is flat.

Robert L. Crandall, CEO American Airlines, 1993.

The Wright Amendment is a pain in the ass, but not every pain in the ass is a constitutional infringement.

Herb Kelleher, CEO Southwest Airlines. Quoted in Is Herb Kelleher America’s Best CEO? Behind his clowning is a people-wise manager who wins where others can’t, Fortune magazine, 2 May 1994.

Think and act big and grow smaller, or think and act small and grow bigger.

Herb Kelleher, CEO Southwest Airlines.

It takes nerves of steel to stay neurotic.

Herb Kelleher, CEO Southwest Airlines.

You [the employees] are involved in a crusade.

Herb Kelleher, CEO Southwest Airlines.

We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.

Herb Kelleher, CEO Southwest Airlines.

That place runs on Herb Kelleher’s bullshit.

Robert W. Baker, VP American Airlines, regards Southwest Airlines.

I’m here to tell you that I am proud of a couple of things. First, I am very good at projectile vomiting. Second, I’ve never had a really serious venereal disease.

Herb Kelleher, in a Wings Club speech in New York. Quoted in Is Herb Kelleher America’s Best CEO? Behind his clowning is a people-wise manager who wins where others can’t, Fortune magazine, 2 May 1994.

He’s a nut job, but a focused nut job.

Robert Land, JetBlue Airways government affairs director, regards boss David Neeleman, quoted in Fortune magazine, 28 May, 2001.

You can get there twice as fast at half the price. That’s an easy sell.

David Neeleman, regards his planned US point-to-point startup airline, codenamed Moxy. Quoted in Air Transport World magazine, September 2019.

Be Luke Skywalker, not Darth Vader. Ultimately love is stronger than evil.

Donald Burr, founder of People Express.

Those were my children being slaughtered.

Donald Burr, on the death of People Express.

We built the Model T; it was black and a lot of people bought it. But we found out not everybody wanted it.

Randy Smith, marketing official, People Express Airlines, On no-frills flying, The New York Times, 25 June 1986.

The state of our airline industry is a national embarrassment.

Tom Plaskett, Chairman Pan Am, following the airline’s collapse.

In the old days, we saw a lot of mink coats. Today, we see a lot of flip-flops.

Bette Nash, celebrating 60 years as a flight attendant, article in The Washington Post, 25 November 2017.

All they have to do is look down at the traffic and suddenly they don’t feel like [flying is] that expensive a way to travel after all.

Jim Herron, On $70 seaplane flights from Manhattan to Fire Island, in The New York Times, 1 July 1986.

Governments have supported airlines as if they were local football teams. But there are just too many of them. This is the only industry I know that has lost money consistently and makes money infrequently.

Richard Hannah, airline analyst with UBS in London, Fortune magazine, February 1996.

I think historically, the airline business has not been run as a real business. That is, a business designed to achieve a return on capital that is then passed on to shareholders. It has historically been run as an extremely elaborate version of a model railroad, that is, one in which you try to make enough money to buy more equipment.

Michael Levine, Executive VP Northwest Airlines, 1996.

It's not a testosterone-driven industry any longer. Success is making money, not in the size of the airline.

Gordon Bethune, Chairman and CEO Continental Airlines, 1996.

There are a lot of parallels between what we’re doing and an expensive watch. It’s very complex, has a lot of parts and it only has value when it’s predictable and reliable.

Gordon Bethune, Chairman and CEO Continental Airlines, 1997.

In airplanes you have a choice between chocolate and vanilla. One year could be vanilla or it could be chocolate. I don’t attach any relevance to which one.

Gordon Bethune, Chairman and CEO Continental Airlines, regards buying Boeing or Airbus products, 2000.

I believe they’re all fucking Toyota Corollas.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair CEO, regards the technical differences between Airbus, Boeing & Comac airliners. In Fortune magazine article, 18 November 2013.

Americans love rising-from-the-ashes stories. They love the underdog coming back. we’re going to take a tarnished brand name and bring it back to a high degree of luster.

Martin R. Shugrue Jr., President and CEO Pan American World Airways, 1996.

In a sense, when we started Virgin Atlantic, I was trying to create an airline for myself. If you try to build the perfect airline for yourself, it will be appreciated by others.

Richard Branson, 1996.

Sue the bastards.

Sir Freddie Laker’s advice to Richard Branson regarding British Airway's dirty tricks campaign against Virgin Atlantic.

Branson ‘dirty tricks’ claim unfounded.

Headline of an article in the British Airways newsletter BA News, 1992. The article became the center of the largest libel payment in British legal history.

We definitely don’t want to wait for them to die; rather we should be the ones to give them the last push.

George Murnane, Chief Financial Officer Mesa Airlines. Email used in Aloha Airlines successful lawsuit against Mesa Airlines for misuse of confidential information to drive Aloha out of bussiness. September 2005.

I’ve said many times that I’d be thrilled to sell the airline to the employees and our guys said no, we’ll take all the money, anyway.

Robert L. Crandall, 1997.

The air is annoyingly potted with a multitude of minor vertical disturbances which sicken the passengers and keep us captives of our seat belts. We sweat in the cockpit, though much of the time we fly with the side windows open. The airplanes smell of hot oil and simmering aluminum, disinfectant, feces, leather, and puke … the stewardesses, short-tempered and reeking of vomit, come forward as often as they can for what is a breath of comparatively fresh air.

Ernest K. Gann, describing airline flying in the 1930’s, Fate is the Hunter, 1961.

There are only two reasons to sit in the back row of an airplane: Either you have diarrhea, or you’re anxious to meet people who do.

Attributed to Henry Kissinger.

When it comes to flying, I am a nervous passenger but a confident drinker and Valium-swallower.

Martin Amis, quoted in The Guardian newspaper, 31 January 2010.

There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.

Orson Welles, interview to celebrate his 70th birthday, The Times of London, 6 May 1985.

The world is divided into two kind of people: normal, intelligent, sensitive people with some breadth of imagination, and people who aren’t the least bit afraid of flying.

Layne Ridley, White Knuckles: Getting over the Fear of Flying, 1987.

Americans have an abiding belief in their ability to control reality by purely material means … airline insurance replaces the fear of death with the comforting prospect of cash.

Cecil Beaton, It Gives Me Great Pleasure, 1955.

Why does every plane have two pilots? Really, you only need one pilot. let’s take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it.

Michael O’Leary, CEO Ryanair, regards eliminating co-pilots in airline operations. Interview in Bloomberg Businessweek, 2 September 2010

Short of committing murder, negative publicity sells more seats than positive publicity.

Michael O'Leary, CEO Ryanair, speaking to Marketing Magazine, 2 August 2013

We are a full-service carrier; we believe consumers have a memory.

Shai Weiss, CEO Virgin Atlantic, regards discount airlines. Quoted in Air Transport World magazine, October 2019/

By further reducing the number of legacy airlines and aligning the economic incentives of those that remain, the merger of US Airways and American would make it easier for the remaining airlines to cooperate rather than compete on price on service.

US Justice Department, part of a lawsuit filed to stop the AA/US Air airline merger, 13 August 2013.

It was over in a blink of an eye, that moment when aviation stirred the modern imagination. Aviation was transformed from recklessness to routine in Lindbergh's lifetime. Today the riskiest part of air travel is the drive to the airport, and the airlines use a barrage of stimuli to protect passengers from ennui.

George Will, Charles Lindbergh, Craftsman, 15 May 1977. In The pursuit of Happiness, and Other Sobering Thoughts, 1978.

Cocooned in time, at this inhuman height,
The packaged food tastes neutrally of clay,
We never seem to catch the running day
But travel on in everlasting night
With all the chic accoutrements of flight:
Lotions and essences in neat array
And yet another plastic cup and tray.

John Betjeman, Back From Australia. The poem was composed as a verse-letter to Edith and Oliver Garratt, 31 December 1971.

The shiny stuff is tomatoes,
The salad lies in a group,
The curly stuff is potatoes,
The stuff that moves is soup.
Anything that is white is sweet,
Anything that is brown is meat,
Anything that is grey, don’t eat,

Stephen Sondheim, in his musical Do I hear a Waltz, 1965.

Airline food is not intended for human consumption. It’s intended as a form of in-flight entertainment, wherein the object is to guess what it is, starting with broad categories such as ‘mineral’ and ‘linoleum.’

Dave Barry, Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need, 1991.

Planes are a good place to diet.

Wolfgang Puck. In Wolfgang Puck: My Favorite Food City, CNN Traveler website, 18 August 2014.

The more I fly, the more I’m convinced that the true wonder of modern aviation is the transformation of tasteless particles into something known as airplane food.

Bob Blumer, The Surreal Gourmet TV show.

An airplane is a heavy thing even before they put the food on it. Funny, isn’t it? The airlines go to all that trouble to keep you from taking a gun on board, then they just hand you a dinner roll you could kill a musk ox with.

Dave Barry, Flying Magazine, June 1993.

The quality of food is in inverse proportion to a dining room’s altitude, especially atop bank and hotel buildings (airplanes are an extreme example).

Bryan Miller, restaurant critic for the The New York Times newspaper.

It's either expensive or it's crappy.

JetBlue Airways spokesman, regards airline food. Reported in The New York Times, 26 June 2002.

A plane is a bad place for an all-out sleep, but a good place to begin rest and recovery from the trip to the faraway places you’ve been, a decompression chamber between Here and There. Though a plane is not the ideal place really to think, reassess or reevaluate things, it is a great place to have the illusion of doing so, and often the illusion will suffice.

Shana Alexander, The Feminine Eye, 1970.

Every time we hit an air pocket and the plane dropped about five hundred feet (leaving my stomach in my mouth) I vowed to give up sex, bacon, and air travel if I ever made it back to terra firma in one piece.

Erica Jong, Fear of Flying, 1973.

Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.

Vice President Al Gore. Quoted in The World According to Gore: The Incredible Vision of the Man Who Should be President, 2007.

Fly the friendly skies.

United Airlines advertising slogan.

Something special in the air.

American Airlines advertising slogan.

To fly. To serve.

British Airways advertising slogan.

The world’s favourite airline.

British Airways advertising slogan.

The Proud Bird with the Golden Tail

Advertising slogan of Continental Airlines, pre-1983 bankruptcy.

We love to fly. And it it shows.

Delta Air Lines advertising slogan, replaced with ‘You’ll love the way we fly’ in January 1995.

Some people just know how to fly.

Northwest Airlines advertising slogan.

How do we love you? Let us count the ways.

Early Southwest Airlines advertising slogan.

The Wings of Man.

Eastern Airlines advertising slogan.

Air Canada. That’s a good name for a Canadian airline.

Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, NBC TV, December 1974.

I mean, they get paid an awful lot of money. The only good thing about them is they can't work after they’re 60.

Judge Prudence Carter Beatty, New York Southern District Bankruptcy Court, regards Delta Air Lines pilots. Reported in The Wall Street Journal, 18 November 2005. The retirement age for US airline pilots was later moved up to 65.

Life expands in an aeroplane. The traveler is a mere slave in a train, and, should he manage to escape from this particular yoke, the car and the ship present him with only limited horizons. Air travel, on the other hand, makes it possible for him to enjoy the 'solitary delights of infinite space.' The earth speeds below him, with nothing hidden, yet full of surprises. Introduce yourself to your pilot. He is always a man of the world as well as a flying ace.

Early French advertisement for airline service, quoted in The Airline Builders, Oliver B. Allen, 1981.

.


Didn’t find what you were looking for? There are loads more quotes on the Airport page and the Miscellaneous Aviation Quotes page. Or try a seach of the entire database:

    

.