A movement to re-regulate the airline industry is slowly gaining momentum in Washington. A few days ago, my colleague Charlie Leocha send me an audio transcript of an interview with Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in which he raised the subject.
Now, my readers are sounding off about the idea. Readers like Marilyn Wright, a former travel agent who worked before, during and after the airlines were deregulated in 1978.
“Allow me one quick ‘I told you so’,” she says.
Not only did the traveler get pretty much (and more) what they paid for in airline travel, many small areas had airline service, because Uncle Sam said so!
Now, of course, there are fewer airlines and fewer cities in the US being served by them, if you want to call what they do service.
Sometimes, government regulation is the best way.
Do you like your phone “service”? Is that cheaper or better? Not cheaper, for sure. Just because you can do more stuff with your phone and have more companies to choose from doesn’t mean it’s better or cheaper to talk on.
I, personally, am so very glad that I took every opportunity to travel the world when I was a travel agent.
Now? Not happening. Absolutely not worth the hassle or the money. If I can’t get there by car, I’m not going!
I also remember air travel before 1978, and I think it was better. I shake my head whenever I see airline apologists — particularly the ones who are old enough to know better — say “before” was worse. They must not have flown very much.
Oberstar’s reasons for re-regulation have less to do with the quality of air travel and more to do with competition. In the interview, he notes that he and other members of Congress who supported the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 didn’t think they were voting for less competition.
His comments came in the context of the latest mega-merger, that of United Airlines and Continental Airlines. As far as I can tell, the congressional hearings on the matter failed to reveal a single benefit of the merger to consumers. Oberstar says there’s Republican support for the idea of re-regulation and added that ideally, he’d also like to “unwind” the merger between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, too.
Now that would be something.
(Photo: Tom Purves/Flickr Creative Commons)