A reader left the following comment about the United incident from last week where a passenger was dragged off a plane and bloodied.
I proceed assuming she’s blaming Ronald Reagan for deregulation (rather than Reagan’s Treasury Secretary and later Chief of Staff Don Regan).
The Airline Deregulation Act was passed in 1978 during the Carter administration. It was championed by Senator Ted Kennedy and Stephen Breyer as a pro-consumer move against a big business-government cartel. The airline industry largely opposed deregulation (United and Frontier were in the minority in support.)
President Carter signs the Airline Deregulation Act, by Jack E. Kightlinger (Public domain)
Deregulation largely meant that airlines would set their own schedules and prices. The regulated era largely protected the profits of airlines. Airlines remain heavily ‘regulated’ with nearly all U.S. airports owned by governments; security performed by the federal government in nearly all airports (and supervised by the federal government where it’s contracted out); air traffic control managed by government; and safety overseen by government.
Involuntary denied boardings are down substantially since deregulation (from ~ 150,000 per year to 46,000 per year, despite many more passengers flying).
If you want to blame someone for airlines calling police on passengers to deal with their overbooking issues, then look to the past 16 years – the Bush 43 and Obama administrations — expanding the security state in aviation such that airlines turn customer service matters over to law enforcement. Any challenge to a crew member is treated as a crime. Law enforcement goes along with this.
But if you’re going to lay blame on “deregulation” you should know what it is — and who did it.