Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Airlines don’t get no lovin’

Here is a little item from the Financial Times concerning public dissatisfaction with airlines. Plenty of meat in this one. All any intelligent person could ever ask is a balanced and sensible transportation system.

You know you’re unloved when people prefer the taxman. In the latest University of Michigan customer satisfaction index, America’s airlines scored worse than the Internal Revenue Service. This past summer has been the worst in years for delays and baggage mishaps on domestic flights. Not coincidentally, average load factors are running above 80 per cent – even higher than during the late 1990s. America’s ageing air traffic system cannot cope. With little slack in the system, all it takes is a storm over New York, through which a third of US air traffic passes, to cause disruption across the network.

Higher ticket prices could reduce demand to manageable levels. But, in a deregulated market, who jumps first? Even as traditional airlines cut domestic capacity, low-cost carriers add to theirs. The commoditisation of air travel is a boon for many. But, if you price and schedule aircraft more like buses, it is little wonder they become as reliable as buses.

Ultimately, the air traffic system must be upgraded. A more integrated transportation policy might also look at investment in other options (high-speed rail?) to mitigate air travel demand growth. However, all of this is years away. The upshot is that the airlines face more regulatory risk in the near term. Government-imposed caps on landing slots, higher landing fees and restrictions on smaller aircraft are all potential measures.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

One Response

  1. It is no surprise to me. I will not, even under duress, use any Airline except SouthWest, and it is far from perfect. Just try to fly from Dallas to Houston to Florida by Southwest.
    First the Wright amendment does not allow you to check your bag through, so you need to set aside at least 3 hours for the connection Houston. Given that Southwest has many flights from TExas to the east — that originate in Arizona and New Mexico, don’t ever expect a late afternoon flight to be within hours of on time. Why – the silly thing could not take off in 120F heat at Phoenix with full fuel, so it had to make an unscheduled stop somewhere to top off — or, it had to sit and wait until the temperature cooled. Now this is not the fault of SWA, but rather physics, but it still makes planes run late.

    Jerry Sulivan

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October 2007


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