BY SAM FIELDS
If by now you have not seen the video of the guy being dragged down the aisle then you must be the only sighted person on the planet who has not.
Undoubtedly you have considered who is to blame…United, the passenger, the crew, airport security, etc.
I’m here to say the responsibility ultimately falls on… President Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy Carter, President 1977-1981
In 1978, he signed into law The Airline Deregulation Act.
Carter’s action led to today’s free market airline industry concerned with the bottom line. In no small part it is why a minority of flyers bitch about: smaller seats, no meals, overbooked flights, passenger bumping, rude flight attendants, inconvenient flight times, etc.
Let me take a slightly different viewpoint…”Thank you Jimmy Carter”.
To understand my viewpoint, consider how things were before and after 1978.
In 1938, the Feds created the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) that regulated licensing, routes, fares and everything in between. I’m talking about meals, flight times, seat sizes–you name it.
Most of all, the CAB decided which airline could fly out of which airport and how much they could charge. Competition was kept to a minimum. Tickets were very expensive. Flying was a social event that required everyone to dress up. By 1960, only 20% had ever flown.
At first you might think that the airlines hated the yoke of the CAB—but you would be wrong. Like a public utility, rates (called tariffs) were on a “cost plus” basis. Airlines were guaranteed a percentage over costs.
The established airlines were a cartel backed by the CAB, which adjusted tariffs to protect airlines from their own inefficiency.
Allow me to share my own experiences.
During the 1970’s I lived in Washington D.C. and often flew the Eastern shuttle to New York. To make it convenient for New York Congressmen, the CAB required Eastern to fly to LaGuardia every hour whether it was needed or not.
On one occasion, I was the only passenger on this forty minute flight that included a meal! Another time food trays were being handed out while the pilot was instructing us to buckle up for landing!!
With the CAB regulating schedules, planes often flew three quarters empty guaranteeing that it was losing money.
But none of this wa$te mattered because the CAB raised the tariffs to protect the airline$. And the cost was passed on to the rest of us by raising the price of our tickets.
By 1980 deregulation came into full force and the free market waived goodbye to Eastern, TWA, Northeast, National and a host of losers that could not adjust to “real” capitalism.
The big winners were you and I. And if you shop around on the Internet you can beat that number. I recently got a last minute Jet Blue flight to New York for $42!
It just took me two minutes to find a round trip from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles for $310. At 54 cents-a-mile, plus hotels, round-trip driving would have cost over $2500 and taken six travel days rather than 12 hours of flight time!
I’m sorry if a crowded plane is too much to bear. But don’t complain to me about your trip to California like it was the Donner Party. Try their On Board meal.
Airlines are the safest form of transportation.
Between 2006 and 2015 only 124 people were killed flying American commercial airlines. At the same time 478,493 were killed on our highways! It wouldn’t surprise me to find that more people were killed driving to and from the airport than in plane crashes!
Think the seats are too small…well maybe your problem is that you have joined the growing number of overweight Americans.
Even complaints about bumping passengers are overblown. The Dr. Dao debacle has gotten all that attention because it was so exceptional. The actual rate of bumping is 1 in 10,000! Every institution from hospitals to Pizza Hut would kill for that failure rate.
If you don’t like the food, lack of Wi-Fi or the general service there are a host of solutions.
Pick up a meal in one of the dozens of takeout restaurants located in the airport.
Still not happy?
Buy a Business or First Class upgrade.
Still, still not happy?
Try Air Emirates where you can get your own compartment with a bed and bath. It’s only going to cost you $10,000+ for that ticket.
Just don’t fly Spirit Airlines and expect to get a Lexus for the price of a Corolla.
Even if American deregulation has reduced the quality of service, it’s worth it. Today 82% of us have flown and 40% of us fly at least once a year. It has saved us hundreds of billion$, opened us up to many more choices and allowed us to afford tickets to places we once could have only dreamed of visiting.
Thank you, Jimmy Carter.
FROM BUDDY: Airlines fares comparison from an industry trade group, 2000 to 2015. Does not include government fees and taxes, such as TSA security fees, airport facility charges and other charges which are mandatory and have been growing. Also, it does not include seat selection, reservation and other airline charges instituted since 2015. (click to enlarge)
Domestic airfares with the same caveats as above. The last three columns are inflation adjusted.