Continually better product at lower cost is the hallmark of vibrant competitive industries.
The US legacy airlines, with Basic Economy fares, are striving to provide less at the same price.
And they work hard to limit competition — they tried to keep out transatlantic discounter Norwegian, and they’re trying to get the government to limit flights to the US by Emirates, Etihad and Qatar and limit their ability to discount fares.
Etihad at Abu Dhabi Airport
It’s time to say enough is enough. I know plenty of passengers are fighting the last battle, lamenting industry consolidation, but there wasn’t a ton of legal ground on which to prevent the big airline mergers and regardless that’s done and in the past.
We don’t have to relitigate past battles, though, if we want competition. The first thing we need to do is simply to legalize competition. Right now there are strict limits on who can own an airline. Instead, we should allow foreign ownership of US airlines — let Singapore Airlines and Ryanair and those Gulf airlines the US majors are so scared of offer service on US domestic routes.
Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER
Why doesn’t this happen? The major US airlines don’t want competition and they have a strangehold on the House Transportation Committee. Congressman Shuster (R-Conquistadores del Cielo) seems to want to give the airlines whatever they wish. Consumer choices, convenience, and competition-lowering fares don’t appear to factor.
The major airlines have succeeded in regulatory capture at DOT which improperly ignores consumer complaints. This matters because the Supreme Court has nearly eliminated the ability to sue so your only avenue of redress is the DOT.
Bringing about competition still wouldn’t be easy. US airlines have a stranglehold on the major airports and wouldn’t let new entrants in. They manage to block expansion of the airports, too, except when they’re the ones expanding. (Remember that the deal to ‘allow’ flights beyond perimeter states from Dallas Love Field included destruction of about a third of the gates there.)
Incumbent airlines lock up the politicians behind government-owned airports the way we get regulatory capture at DOT and cronyist relationships with influential members of Congress. So there are infrastructure barriers to growing competition at major US airports, with politicians standing in the way there too cheered on by the US legacy airlines.
You’ve had airlines colluding with the federal government since the 1925 Kelly Act, the 1930 Air Mail Act, and the corrupt ‘Spoils Conference’.
Consumers who wish to ‘bring back regulation’ forget that the Civil Aeronautics Board took as its mission preventing ‘ruinous competition’ and so the government dictating who flew where and set (high) prices in order to ensure airline profits.
Enough is enough.