The World’s Worst Airline

The By Elizabeth Spiers –
TAM Linhas Aereas is the worst airline in the world. I’ve been saying that since early April, when my boyfriend and I took a short vacation in Brazil and returned happy with our stay but traumatized by the air travel. So last week when a TAM Airbus 320 on an inbound domestic route skidded off the Sao Paulo airport runway, tried to take off again, and crashed into a cargo building owned by the same carrier, exploding on impact and incinerating nearly 200 people, I felt angrily (and okay, smugly) justified in my condemnation.

It’s not entirely TAM’s fault that it’s a terrible airline; it’s also Brazil’s fault. And this crash illustrates why.

The alternative would be to force Brazilian air travel to conform to the limitations of the country’s existing infrastructure. This would mean scheduling fewer flights, which would result in less revenue from tourism, which is increasingly responsible for the country’s economic growth. State officials are not willing to do this, either.

As long as the Sao Paulo runway remains too short, the air-traffic controllers remain underpaid and poorly equipped, the market remains uncompetitive, and state officials remain in denial about the inevitability of more accidents stemming from overcapacity in an already strained system, the likelihood that last week’s accident won’t be (as news reports called it) “the country’s worst air disaster” will only increase. And however gorgeous Brazil is, I won’t be heading back anytime soon.

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