Southwest, United, Delta y American Airlines acaban de recibir muy buenas noticias

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Esta es una historia de colaboración, paciencia y negocios.

También es una gran noticia para las principales aerolíneas estadounidenses.

Póngalo de esta manera: ¿Recuerda cuando un pasajero intentó poner un «pavo real de apoyo emocional» a bordo de un avión de United Airlines?

Finalmente esta locura finalmente ha terminado.

Hace unos años, los pasajeros colocaban todo tipo de «animales de apoyo emocional» en los aviones: gatos, perros, caballos en miniatura, incluso «pavos reconfortantes, zarigüeyas deslizantes conocidas como planeadores del azúcar, serpientes, arañas y más» para un grupo industrial.

Un pasajero de United Airlines incluso intentó traer un animal de apoyo emocional que, según él, necesitaba su propio animal de apoyo emocional adicional, según el entonces director ejecutivo de United Airlines, Oscar Muñoz.

Después de todo, las aerolíneas reaccionaron individualmente (como aquí y aquí) al absurdo aquí) y juntos. Me atrajo el documento legal increíblemente serio de 39 páginas que los grupos de la industria que representan a los estadounidenses, Delta, Southwest, Estados Unidos y otras aerolíneas habían presentado en ese momento.

El problema no era solo la tontería, dijeron las aerolíneas. También fue la seguridad, un «aumento» en los incidentes de «ladridos, mordeduras, mordiscos, gruñidos y peleas» a bordo, sin mencionar a los animales que hacen sus necesidades en las cabinas de pasajeros abarrotadas.

Si no hubiera seguido esto hace unos años, podría preguntarse: ¿por qué diablos las aerolíneas lo permitirían?

Esto se debe a que las regulaciones federales requerían que los animales de servicio volaran, pero tampoco definían adecuadamente qué eran los animales de servicio o qué tipos de capacitación o calificaciones necesitaban.

La semana pasada el gobierno finalmente actuó. Casi un año después del lanzamiento de uno El Ministerio de Transporte ha aclarado el cambio de regla propuesto en un documento de 122 páginas (el enlace es .pdf).

Los mayores desarrollos incluyen:

  • Los animales de servicio ahora se limitarán a perros que «han sido entrenados individualmente para realizar trabajos o tareas en beneficio de una persona calificada con una discapacidad. Este cambio por sí solo alinea la división de transporte (y las aerolíneas) con las definiciones de la Ley de Estadounidenses con Discapacidades.
  • Las aerolíneas ahora son libres de clasificar a los «animales con apoyo emocional» como «mascotas en lugar de animales de servicio».
  • Las aerolíneas pueden requerir que los pasajeros que deseen acompañar a los animales de servicio llenen un formulario gubernamental que confirme el formulario de «Salud, comportamiento y entrenamiento» del animal.

Los sindicatos que representan a los auxiliares de vuelo dieron la bienvenida a las nuevas reglas; eran los asistentes de vuelo, después de todo, sobre cuyos hombros la carga de lidiar con animales rebeldes e incluso peligrosos era más pesada.

Es una «buena noticia» que «garantiza que las personas con discapacidades y nuestros veteranos obtengan el apoyo que necesitan para los animales de servicio», al tiempo que mantienen seguros a otros pasajeros y al personal, dijo Sara Nelson, presidenta del sindicato que representa a los asistentes de vuelo de United Airlines .

«Felicitamos al DOT por establecer estándares claros y aplicables», dijo el líder sindical que representa a los asistentes de vuelo de American Airlines.

Supongo que no todos los pasajeros estarán contentos con el resultado. Como dijo un defensor de las personas con discapacidad a principios de este año, algunos pasajeros quieren «disfrutar de los beneficios de estar discapacitados sin perder el uso de sus extremidades o sentidos solo para poder llevar a su mascota».

En cualquier caso, creo que este es el último de una larga lista de ejemplos en los que las personas que dirigen empresas más pequeñas pueden recurrir a grandes aerolíneas que cotizan en bolsa en busca de inspiración para resolver sus propios problemas comerciales.

Se trata de asociarse con la competencia para formular un consenso de la industria y luego articularlo con las fuerzas externas que afectan a su negocio.

El lobby de la aerolínea es significativo y este no es de ninguna manera el único o el mayor problema. Por supuesto, la pandemia en curso plantea mayores desafíos para la industria. Pero como ejemplo discreto, es instructivo.

Racionalmente, podría ver a sus competidores como eso: competidores. Pero, ¿existen desafíos comunes que podrían abordar juntos y que mejorarían el negocio de todos?

Podría ser tan pequeño como las tiendas minoristas vecinas que trabajan juntas para cambiar las regulaciones de estacionamiento locales, o más grande, como un grupo de competidores que se unen para tratar de obtener tarifas preferenciales de un proveedor común.

Tal vez se trate de una campaña de marketing combinada de la industria, algo para aumentar el tamaño del pastel proverbial y, con él, la porción de todos.

La competencia suele inspirar a los ejecutivos a trabajar mejor y de forma más inteligente. Pero a veces la cooperación entre competidores también vale la pena.

Tenga esto en cuenta la próxima vez que vuele un avión estadounidense y no tenga que preocuparse de que uno de sus compañeros de viaje intente traer un pavo real o «planeadores del azúcar, serpientes». [or] Arañas «a bordo.

Las opiniones expresadas aquí por los columnistas de Inc.com son las suyas propias, no las de Inc.com.

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One United Airlines passenger even tried to bring an emotional support animal he claimed needed its own, separate, additional emotional support animal, according to then-United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz.

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Eventually, the airlines responded to the absurdity, both individually (like here and  here) and together. I was drawn to the hilariously earnest 39-page legal document that industry groups representing American, Delta, Southwest, United, and other airlines filed at the time.

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The problem wasn't just the silliness, the airlines said. It was also safety--a "surge" in incidents of "barking, biting, nipping, growling, and fighting" on board--to say nothing of animals relieving themselves in crowded passenger cabins.

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Now, if you didn't follow this a few years ago, you might find yourself asking: Why on earth would airlines allow this?

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The reason is that federal rules required them to permit service animals to fly, but they also didn't adequately define what service animal were, or what kinds of training or qualifications they needed.

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Last week, the government finally acted. Nearly a year after releasing a  proposed rule change, the Department of Transportation made things clear, in a 122-page document (link is .pdf).

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Among the biggest developments:

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  • Service animals will now be limited to dogs "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability. This change alone aligns the Transportation Department (and the airlines) with the definitions used in the Americans With Disabilities Act.
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  • Airlines are now free to classify "emotional support animals" as "pets, rather than service animals." 
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  • Airlines can require passengers who want service animals to accompany them to fill out a government form confirming the animal's "health, behavior and training form."

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The unions representing flight attendants applauded the new rules; it was flight attendants, after all, on whose shoulders the burden of dealing with unruly and even dangerous animals fell most heavily.

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It's "good news" that will "ensure people with disabilities and our veterans have necessary service animal assistance," while keeping other passengers and employees safe, said Sara Nelson, president of the union representing United Airlines flight attendants.

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"We commend the DOT for setting clear and enforceable standards," said the head of the union representing American Airlines flight attendants.

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Not every passenger will be happy with the result, I suppose. As one advocate for people with disabilities put it earlier this year, some passengers "want to have the benefits of having a disability without actually losing the use of their limbs or senses, just so they can take their pet with them." 

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In any event, I consider this the latest in a long line of examples in which people running smaller businesses can look to large, publicly traded airlines for inspiration in solving their own business problems.

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Here, it's about teaming up with competitors to articulate an industry consensus, and then articulating it to the outside forces that affect your business.

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The airline lobby is significant, and this is by no means its only or its biggest issue; of course, the ongoing pandemic presents bigger industry challenges. But as a discrete example, it's instructive.

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You might rationally view your competitors as just that: competitors. But are there common challenges you might address together, that would improve everyone's business?

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It might be as small as neighboring retail stores advocating together for a change in local parking regulations--or bigger, such as a group of competitors banding together to try to get preferred pricing from a shared vendor.

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Maybe it's about a combined industry marketing campaign -- something to increase the size of the proverbial pie, and with it, everyone's slice. 

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Competition usually inspires business leaders to work better and smarter. But sometimes, cooperation among competitors pays off, too.

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Think about that the next time you fly on a U.S. airliner, and don't have to worry that one of your fellow passengers will try to bring a peacocks, or a "sugar gliders, snakes, [or] spiders" aboard.

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