Deregulation

Don't Blame the Airlines

We should be grateful to the people who run and staff the commercial air carriers.

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Christmas is nigh, and Santa Claus is not the only person who will be flying to make his appointed rounds. This holiday season, according to the Air Transport Association (ATA), 41 million passengers will take trips by air.

No, that is not a misprint. We are in the middle of a stupendous mass migration that has become a routine event. It's just a small part of the explosion of air travel in our time. Since 1988, the number of people boarding domestic and international flights in the United States has climbed by 63 percent.

The increase has not happened because flying is so much more fun than it used to be. It's occurred because flying is so much cheaper. The average fare today is $301. If ticket prices had merely kept up with inflation over the last decade, it would be $427.

Everyone would like more space, free food, pillows galore, carefree flight attendants, and all the other amenities once associated with air travel. But what we would like is not the same as what we will pay for. Given a choice between enjoying amenities and saving money, most of us invariably choose the latter. We want to get to our destination as cheaply as possible, and the air travel market has accommodated that preference.

The decline in prices, adjusted for inflation, has come at the expense of the airlines, which have gotten used to providing their services at well below cost. They have lost money in six of the last eight years, piling up net losses of nearly $60 billion and making bankruptcy a more common occurrence than snowfall at O'Hare.

For all that, we should be grateful to the people who run and staff the commercial air carriers. But the Obama administration thinks fliers are getting a raw deal and need what it calls a "passenger bill of rights." This week, the Department of Transportation issued a rule decreeing that airlines may not keep passengers waiting on the runway for more than three hours without giving them a chance to flee for the exits.

Nor may carriers hold their flights for more than two hours without furnishing food and water to everyone on board. Any carrier that doesn't meet these requirements will face fines of up to $27,500 per passenger. On a plane with 140 passengers, that would add up to more than $3.8 million.

At those prices, protracted waits on the tarmac will soon be a thing of the past. But the change won't keep fliers from having to endure even longer delays or other major headaches. The ATA says cancellations will become more common, and American Airlines says "we will be forced to cancel more flights than we had under our self-imposed, four-hour policy."

Aviation consultant Robert Mann agrees. "The unintended consequence: No one gets to go," he told The Chicago Tribune's Julie Johnsson. Instead of being stuck in a plane for four hours, you could be stuck in an airport or a hotel for a day, or two, awaiting a plane with an empty seat going to your destination.

The occasional horror story gets a lot of attention. But the more newsworthy fact is the extreme rarity of this phenomenon. DOT says each year, about 1,500 flights are stranded on the runway for more than three hours. Sounds like a lot, until you realize that there are some 9.3 million domestic departures annually.

The evil targeted by DOT occurs once for every 6,200 flights. That's not a scandal. It's a miracle.

There is more than a whiff of arrogance in the new regulation. When a reporter asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood what would happen if a plane needed only an extra five minutes to take off, he snorted, "You know as well as I do that five minutes always extends out to 50 minutes and almost always to 5 hours. There's no such thing as five minutes, never, ever." He was not joking.

The DOT rule flows from two presumptions common in Washington: 1) that private businesses have insufficient motivation to satisfy their patrons, and 2) that government regulators are capable of making better operational decisions than the people whose livelihoods are at stake.

Someday, maybe our leaders will figure out that neither is usually true. But before that happens, expect a very long delay.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS.COM

NEXT: I Don't Feel Truant

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  1. Good morning everybody!

    1. A belated good morning to you, Suki.

      Another pleasant night, it would seem!

      1. Yes, it was nice and peaceful. I don’t live in Gaza ya know, LOL.

  2. Most of us don’t like to see the government involved in disputes that should be resolved via market mechanisms. And I understand that these mechanisms have lead, in the course of the last 30 years to dramatic price decreases for air travel. I also understand that sometimes events beyond the control of airlines interfere with the timely delivery of the services that I have contracted to buy from them.

    However, I do not understand why, when they have failed to deliver that service, they can hold me hostage aboard one of their aircraft. Even on board ship I have the ability to jump overboard and try to swim for it. But if I insist on leaving an aircraft backed-up on the taxiway for 6 hours, with toilets overflowing and no food or drink, I’ll be arrested. I don’t have a paper ticket at hand and can’t confirm that this is not one of the contracted services but like murder and assault, this seems to me to be something for which a binding contract ought not be enforced.

    1. Pretty much came here to say this.

    2. You ignorant lout! Airport delays are not caused by the airlines but by Air Traffic Control, which is to say the FAA. The airlines have absolutely nothing to do with it.

  3. That should, of course, read “these mechanisms have led …”

  4. Correct me if i’m wrong, but doesn’t a government employee tell the pilot when he can leave the gate and where he will wait?

    1. I hate that part of nanny government. They should just let them all fly uncoordinated and let the free market work out who crashes into who.

      1. Yeah, because we all know it’s completely impossible for a commercial, non-governmental entity to correctly coordinate and control ground traffic at an airport. I mean, that’s a function only government employees can handle.

        1. So why doesn’t such an entity exist?

            1. Well, not in the US.
              US airlines are to stupid to do it for themselves.

              1. You sure can spot stupid, Blitz. Must be some kind of kinship factor.

        2. Thank you for that observation, ADB, and it was my second thought.

          My main point was that a government employee is in charge of making airplanes wait out in the void, not “evil” airline presidents.

    2. No, that would be an airport employee (which may or may not be an employee of the local government at some smaller airports.) The government doesn’t take control until 5 miles outside of the airport.

      1. You are telling us that ground control at commercial airports is local, not fed? I mean true commercial airports, not the tiny charter ones.

    3. Gate to taxiway movement is controlled by the airline, but the FAA is still the problem.

      The FAA set a standard saying on-time departure is scored at pushback, not take-off, and on-time arrival is touchdown, not parked at the gate. Even if you spend hours on the ground, you can still have had an “on-time” departure and/or arrival.

      The present system should be reversed. Departure timeliness shouldn’t be scored till the wheels leave the ground, and arrival timeliness shouldn’t be scored till the airplane door is open at the gate. Under this scenario, there’s no benefit to keeping people stuck on the taxiway.

      1. Shouldn’t it be scored by passenger experience and shopping for the best airline they want to pay for?

  5. I would like to know the source of the $427 vs $301 figure. Is it an apples to apples comparison, or is it not controlled for things such as net switches from business to coach or a higher proportion of shorter flights?

    In any case, I expect that at least some of the cost reduction is “real”, and, as Chapman noted, mostly due to the terrible decline in service. Where Chapman and I disagree is whether this is a good thing. I for one would gladly pay an extra 5-10% for better service and to reduce the chances of the worst disasters.

    And for the love of God, few things irritate me more than airline pricing schemes, particularly how they make one-way or multi-stop trips much more expensive than their round-trip variants.

    1. Youi can pay extra for better service. It’s called first class. Thus, as a consumer, you have a choice whether you want to trade some ammenities for a lower fare. This is obviouisly nothing unique to air travel.

      1. First class is absurdly expensive and does not address any of the issues that I dislike. I don’t need a wider seat and I wouldn’t eat the slightly less crappy junk they serve anyway.

        First class or not, I still get delayed (in hot, crowded O’Hare F-wing usually), still have to deal with ridiculous pricing schemes and schedules, etc.

    2. So you’d pay 5-10% more for better service; would you refuse to fly if the service were 5-10% poorer? For me, the airlines have already priced themselves out of the market—they charge too little, so I almost never fly, the entire process is just too unpleasant. It’s a luxury not available to everyone and it does have its costs. But as long as the majority of the traveling public is prepared to play the part of “self-loading freight” then service will remain poor. Eventually I expect that the airlines will be freeze drying passengers at one end, storing them in vacuum sealed containers for the flight, then reconstituting them at the destination by adding water—just like instant coffee.

      1. If it means every trip would feel instantaneous then I wonder how many people would consider that a better deal.

        1. If I could get freeze dried and wake up in Sydney, I’d pay extra for that service.

      2. Chad thinks his taxes are too low, and pays extra because he feels guilty over his income footprint. No sense arguing with his ilk.

        Still fun, though.

  6. 5 minutes almost always extends to 5 hours? Ray LaHood is a moron. Is there a requirement that government have morons in cabinet-level positions?

      1. I challenge you to show me where in the Constitution it says that!

        1. The Constitution doesn’t specify having morons in cabinet-level positions just as it doesn’t mention anything about unelected and unconfirmed “czars” that are seem to be growing like weeds in the current administration.

        2. Cabinet-level positions are filled by the President with advice and consent of Congress. Apples don’t fall far from the tree.

  7. You are all libertard right-wing nitwits blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

  8. Did the historic breaking news break teh system?

  9. Air travel is a disaster. Everyone involved in it is a tool. Airlines have insane pricing models, the government imposes insane regulations on the airlines, the unions impose insane costs on the system and the passengers have an insane sense of entitlement.

    The dirty secret of the airline industry is that the business travelers pay for the rest of our seats. The stat I remember from the mid-90’s was 10% of the customers account for 80% of the revenue. Just look at how much more business class costs than coach.

    The article is correct in that more flights will just be canceled, rather than risk paying these fines.

    Get ready for a rash of sob stories in the paper about some poor slob who couldn’t make it back to Peoria to see his dying mother because the airline decided to cancel all the flights because they didn’t want to get hit with fines.

    Just think if this rule was in effect now with the massive storms hitting during the holiday season. I’ve seen a bazillion stories about the sad, sad travelers who are stuck waiting for a flight out. Do you think they would gladly sit on the taxiway for 6 hours if they could get out?

    1. Yes, this is another example of Government responding to something that is not a crisis (while of course making it sound like it is.) As horrible as it sounds to be stuck on the tarmac for hours, this will only leave more people stranded.

      1. Stranded with bathrooms, thanks to us!

    2. I just flew in from Vegas.

      Boy, are my arms tired!

    3. Easy way to avoid all that. Drive yourself. I know my luggage won’t get lost, and I won’t be sleeping in an airport overnight when my flight gets canceled. Also, I know I won’t have to deal with TSA monkeys on power trips.

      1. “Easy way to avoid all that. Drive yourself.”

        Oh yeah, and on public roads made via theft I bet!

        Socialist!

        1. Obvious troll is obvious.

        2. Man, I’m getting tired.

          1. That’s sexist.

        3. STFU, MNG.

      2. I’m offended.

      3. A little tricky driving from Honolulu to anywhere off island.

        1. Amphibious cars are available. Gas may be more of a problem.

        2. Here in MN, you can see folks “skip” their snowmobile across open patches of water. You just have to go fast enough, and suspend belief in physics long enough to get across.

          I think you could do the same in Honolulu. Just remember speed is the secret.

        3. Considering my name, may I make the obvious suggestion? Sail…

        4. I took the bridge (that’s what I tell people who ask how I got my car with it’s Hawaii plates to New Jersey).

    4. I’ve seen a bazillion stories about the sad, sad travelers who are stuck waiting for a flight out. Do you think they would gladly sit on the taxiway for 6 hours if they could get out?

      I sure as hell wouldn’t. But if that choice were clearly labeled as such prior to boarding, I would be fine with it being offered.

    5. The dirty secret of the airline industry is that the business travelers pay for the rest of our seats. The stat I remember from the mid-90’s was 10% of the customers account for 80% of the revenue. Just look at how much more business class costs than coach.

      Those “stats” would imply that the average business traveler pays 8 to 9 times as much per flight than coach passengers.

      I don’t recall the price difference being that huge, or the first-class / business sections of the plane being anywhere near the size of the coach sections.

      The business class passengers may provide the profit, if any, but the bulk of the revenue seems like it would still come from coach.

      1. State probably counts revenue per person, not per person per flight. Obviously frequent business fliers will generate a large chunk of revenue, but that metric is meaningless for the point he was feebly attempting to make.

      2. Last time I went to work in Tokyo, business class for my family was $15K. We flew coach for $1100. It really depends on the route, the time of year and other special considerations.

        Business travelers will also buy less than 30 days in advance. The will buy multiple tickets for the same day (4, 5, 6, 7 pm) because they don’t know when they are leaving from a meeting. Depending on circumstances, some of those will might be non-refundable.

        The worst thing about the current economic troubles is that many companies are investing money in video conferencing technology. When times get good again, you might not see the business travelers come back in the same numbers.

        1. Pope, I had no idea how virile and potent you were. Family of 15!

          1. Read it again, Suki…

  10. People want to get to their destinations as cheaply as possible WITH ALL THE FREEBIES, and the air travel markt has NOT accommodated that preference. Being pro-market doesn’t mean you have to make up shit about the market.

    1. I don’t think this is true. There have been numerous airlines that have tried to compete on service, and have failed. Midwest Airlines comes to mind. They had a premium product with fewer seats (more passenger space) on their aircraft, with fresh baked cookies and upscale foods. Even out of a market with little direct pressure (Milwaukee) they could not effectively compete, and went out of business as an independent entity.

      It seems pretty clear to me that price is THE driving force behind what airline the customer will pay to fly on.

    2. Being pro- or anti-market don’t enter into it; you just need two brain cells to know there ain’t no such thing as a freebie. You get what you pay for.

  11. I’m missing something: why would giving passengers food/water/freedom to leave mean more cancellations?

    1. If you let a passenger off you must also remove his/her luggage (security regs). Mr. Chapman failed to include the really pertinent information about this problem: the gov’t is creating more rules to ‘fix’ the problems created by their rules.

      1. “If you let a passenger off you must also remove his/her luggage (security regs).”

        Well no shit, a person should be free to leave a business he’s transacting with when it is performing terribly on its side of its transaction, and he can take his property with him.

        Imagine you go into McDonalds and order a big order. After 30 minutes you say “to heck with this I’m leaving” and they say “oh no sir, you can’t leave now, your order is already in the queue, you have to wait until we can get your food to you now!”

        1. “Imagine you go into McDonalds and order a big order. After 30 minutes you say “to heck with this I’m leaving” and they say “oh no sir, you can’t leave now, your order is already in the queue, you have to wait until we can get your food to you now!””

          Now imagine being in the same McDonald’s, only when you get pissed off enough to want to leave, you have to shut down the entire restaurant to do so, thereby causing further delays for everyone else patiently waiting for their order.

          1. So you should effectively be imprisoned in the McDonalds for the greater good of the other customers?

            Welcome to utilitarianism Brian, I never knew you were a member!

            1. How does this work in the cruise industry?

              1. Incidentally the cruise industry (of which I spent a year managing the instrumental music for 5 of Holland America’s ships), if you desperately wish to leave the ship you can be dropped off at the next port – and if you get ill and must leave immediately, in some circumstances, you may be airlifted away via helicopter. I had “lifeflight” insurance as part of that job actually.

                It’s not very common though because the cruise ship industry is the hospitality industry – it’s a floating hotel that does everything in their power to make your experience pleasant… You get on and off when they say you will, you leave port when they say you will (or very close to it), and your luggage is handled carefully and deposited in your room.

            2. I don’t know about you, MNG, but whenever I fly I simply expect to reach my destination, not have my feet massaged along the way unless I choose to pay extra for that kind of service. I also remain fully aware that getting from point A to B may at times involve unforseeable complications, most of which arise from events that are out of the control of the people providing the service.

              True, there are times when the airlines treat customers in an inexcusably shabby manner, but those instances are extremely rare, and it’s ever rarer when those situations take place because of malicious intent on the airline’s part.

              If you’re not happy with the meal that’s delivered during a flight, do you think you have the right to demand that the plane immediately land at the nearest airport so you can be let off?

              1. And I’ve travelled via air extensively all my life. I’ve had my luggage misplaced more times than I can remember. Sometimes it’s arrived at my destination before me, sometimes it’s been delivered to my house the day after. I’ve slept overnight in airline terminals more than once due to weather-related delays. Big fucking deal.

                I’ve waited on the tarmac watching a maintenance crew fix an engine because a warning light went off while my plane was taxi-ing out to take off. As far as I was concerned, they could take all the time in the world to make sure the job was done right. Being pissed about the delay struck me as being a little petty, and more than a little stupid.

                I’ve been on a plane that was struck by fucking lightning coming in to land in Milwaukee. Clearly the airline was at fault for scheduling a flight months in advance when they knew there’d be a thunderstorm that day. When the pilot came out to apologize to everyone for the incident as they were leaving the plane, I told him as much right before I punched him in the face.

                1. I have to laugh because I’ve been on flights where people bitched about a maintenance delay.

                  It’s like they’d rather take a chance that it is a false alarm, or a “spare part” than wait 30 minutes and get it fixed.

                  After working in air traffic control while in the Marines (I was a navigational aid tech, not a controller) I am a bad flier. I am always ready to wait until all the red lights have been fixed.

      2. Ah, right. The luggage.

        I’m surprised they haven’t banned luggage altogether. Travelers would have to buy all new stuff at their destination, and voila! The economy is saved, too!

      3. Not yet. The US does not require baggage to be matched to passengers for domestic travel. The airlines have resisted saying that it is not feasible at this time.

        International flights must match baggage to passengers and it is not uncommon to a flight delayed while the crew search for a missing passengers bags and remove them from the plane (usually do to someone that missed a connection by falling asleep in the concourse or something similar).

  12. Santa Claus, libertarian hero. Let’s see any government match the efficiency of this private actor who manufactures, packages and ships millions of items to millions of people in one night. Minimum wage and OSHA laws would force inefficiencies into his Elvian work force, not to mention the havoc of collective bargaining (imagine the crippling effect of a strike on the workshop floor Christmas Eve morning!), FAA regulations would fatally slow his progress on that important night, and heavy-handed law enforcement would likely shoot him with a taser after he failed to produce identification fast enough. Those Reindeer harnessed to that heavy sleigh? Animal control confiscates them.

    I say Ayn Rand wasted her time focusing on the plight of Howard Roark. Santa Clause, libertarian hero.

    1. I don’t care if you’re being facetious, I like this post.

      Merry X-mas

  13. Hey, I just read the Chapman article.

    “This week, the Department of Transportation issued a rule decreeing that airlines may not keep passengers waiting on the runway for more than three hours without giving them a chance to flee for the exits.”

    WTF is wrong with this regulation? I mean, if you want to leave the plane after it’s been sitting for hours, why shouldn’t you be able to??? If you buy a ticket you agree to be essentially imprisoned against your will for three hours or more? WTF?

    1. An aircraft sitting on the tarmac is full of passengers that have cleared security and bags that have cleared security.

      Assuming that you want to let a passenger off, you first need to find someplace to park the aircraft. Gates at busy airports are rarely open.

      Next you have to find the passenger’s bags which are not stored in any organized fashion on the aircraft.

      You also have to rewrite the rules for what constitutes the duty hours for the flight crew. Today they are paid on a combination of push-back time, take-off time, landing time, and arrival time.

      You also need to rewrite the regulations that define maximum duty hours for the crew which also based upon push-back time, take-off time, landing time, and arrival time.

      These delay travesties are not just the result of airline policies. The regulations are the principle driver for why the airlines behave the way they do.

      So the feds drive the regulations for how airlines behave when passengers get stuck on the tarmac, and now the feds are also going to fine the airlines for that very behavior.

    2. You are clearly trolling, or have never been on a plane.

      You cannot let one person off the plane without basically canceling the flight. The plane does not wait at the gate, it is out on the tarmac, and there is no way to let someone leave without takin the plane back to the gate, at which case the show is over.

      Should everyone lose their flight, if one person wants off?

      1. That is what emergency slides are for.

  14. Quite honestly, what bothers me most is having to look at fat chicks in sweat pants with JUICY written across the ass. Has humanity lost all sense of shame?

    1. You have a problem with a butthole labeled “juicy”? What’s wrong with a little butthole juice?

    2. Some guys find fat chicks sexy. Your taste should not be imposed on everyone else.

    3. If ever there was a case for negative externalities…

      1. Your taste should not be imposed on everyone else

        Of course not. My particular “taste” revolts at cheap polyesters with imprinted pink slogans surrounding corpulent mounds of undulating white-trash butt-flesh. But that’s just me. If “everyone else” loves it, please frequent the Jet Blue terminal at JFK. Your wildest dreams will be realized.

        1. ‘My particular “taste” revolts at cheap polyesters with imprinted pink slogans surrounding corpulent mounds of undulating white-trash butt-flesh.’

          Racist or not, it’s not the white-trash butt-flesh that bothers me, but that ‘person of color butt-flesh.

  15. Well you have to admit he does raise some pretty valid points here!

    Tullis
    http://www.Ultimate-Privacy.net

  16. While there may be a veneer of competition (really just price competition) in the airline industry, the control over who flies what planes where and when is a government monopoly. If the government is going to exert that kind of control, they damn well better adjust their cockamamie system to let the prisoners off the plane when on the tarmac for over X number of hours.

    1. Actually the CAB was abolished about 30 years ago. Other than subsidies for airports that shouldn’t exist, the government doesn’t control routes.

      1. I was referring to the departure and arrival procedure, i.e., land on runway 26, right turn out on take off, follow X route until Y time, etc.

        1. Are you suggesting anarchy on runways, or are you just concerned with who signs the paycheck of the person who directs traffic?

          1. I’m just saying that the length of time spent on a tarmac has more to do with gov’t regulations and air traffic controllers than the ultimate destination of the plane. Since the gov’t created the problem, they can’t ignore it. But like so many other topics, the gov’t pretends like it is the airline’s fault. The solution is pretty stupid. How about fining air traffic controllers a week’s pay for every plane they strand more than 4 hours?

            1. Aside from the fact that air traffic controllers have nothing to do with planes on a runway or within an airport’s airspace, your idea is brilliant. There are two reasons why a plane would be out there for 3+ hours:

              1) Delays due to weather or congestion – this can easily be solved by only having the first 5-10-whatever planes “in line” actually taxi out to the runway. If anyone wants to get off at an hour, three hours, or whatever, they can easily do so while at the gate.

              2) Mechanical problems – This may or may not be able to be solved as per the above (even though it would be a giant stretch to blame this on the government as you’d prefer), but it can at least be mitigated that way. And I’m still not opposed to having some time limit where you can be held hostage on a runway, though.

        2. While there may be a veneer of competition (really just price competition) in the airline industry, the control over who flies what planes where and when is a government monopoly.

          This is not the same thing as telling the airlines which routes to fly and which prices they pay.

          This is the equivalent of having lane marker lines painted on the roadways. These tell you how to drive a given route, but don’t tell you which routes to takes, or when to take them, or how often, or dictate what kind of car you drive.

          Analogy fail.

  17. Look at a different way. How is it libertarian to force people to stay stuck in a tube for 4 hours when there is an exit nearby, but they cannot leave said tube under penalty of arrest?

    1. It would be ‘libertarian’ to explain to those people that they already knew that might happen before they VOLUNTARILY boarded, and that if they don’t exactly relish this possibility, that they should drive.

      Cost vs. benefit analysis – it’s not just for pointy-head accountants.

  18. The controllers at all major towers are FAA employees. They tell the planes when they can leave the gate, where to taxi to, when they can take off, and where to go all the way to their arrival gate.

  19. I really don’t care for the way your company left me in the middle of fucking nowhere, with fucking keys to a fucking car that isn’t fucking there. And I really didn’t care to fucking walk down a fucking highway and across a fucking runway to get back here, to have you smile at my fucking face. I want a fucking car right…fucking…now.

    1. Clever. Feel better now?

      1. Can’t you recognize lines from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles when you see them?

  20. How about we not forget why they are leaving the gate and holding you captive for hours. It is so their “on time departure” metric looks good.

    1. This is not entirely true. The amount of time a crew can fly in a given time period is fixed, and the flight time clock starts running immediately after pushback. Airline operations are unlikely to push an aircraft back, knowing there will be a long departure delay, as it is essentially wasted crew utilization. This causes downstream problems with aircraft scheduling that are of greater overall concern than on-time statistics. Some flight crews may disagree with this, because they may be given time off later on because of hours flown, but I would say they are the minority. Most want to get the job done, which is complete the flight and get the passengers where they need to be.

      Often, a crew will opt to push back for departure, even if a delay is anticipated, as an earlier departure time can sometimes be worked out with ATC. Sometime this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

      The bottom line of this regulation is that it will restrict crew flexibility to get the job done. I do not believe it will result in an enhancement to the passenger’s air travel experience.

  21. I would just be happy if they didn’t root through my bag and steal everything of value. I’m looking at you, US Air.

    1. Is that US Air, or the TSA?

      1. Both?

  22. I for one would gladly pay an extra 5-10% for better service and to reduce the chances of the worst disasters.

    Chad, I would gladly pay 50 cents a pound for prime rib. Turns out no one cares to lose money to accommodate me like that.

    You can purchase better service. It will tend to cost you more than what you indicated. You can, for example, purchase the longer leg room of an exit row seat for maybe $30 to $40 a trip. And you can purchase much better service in first class.

    It’s just that most people, however much they say they want service, actually buy the cheapest fare in the marketplace. It’s called revealed preference.

  23. If the travel web sites I used listed distance between rows of seats, I’d use that when making my personal travel plans. However, they don’t give me that information, so I must base my decision on what information they do provide: price and schedule.

    I have seen some airline ads stating that they have increased leg room on “some flights”, but unless they advertise more space on “all flights”, they’re just wasting their advertising dollars, IMHO.

  24. “I for one would gladly pay an extra 5-10% for better service and to reduce the chances of the worst disasters”

    Like everyone, you say you would, and may even believe it. On the other hand, there’s what customers say they will do, and there’s observation of actual customer behavior, and the latter makes it pretty clear that price is the only thing airline passengers care about. Unless they’re spending someone else’s money.

    “I mean, if you want to leave the plane after it’s been sitting for hours, why shouldn’t you be able to???”

    Mainly because it has to return to the gate, one of which may or may not be open, then push again – assuming the crew is still legal to fly it – get back in line for de/anti-ice, and start the process all over again, wasting hours of every other passenger’s time because you can’t seem to grasp that sometimes the weather isn’t going to cooperate with your travel plans. Don’t worry though, because now your flight will just be cancelled. I do want to be there to watch the first time you have to go back to the gate and the only one available is at a customs facility after customs is closed (you say you were on a domestic flight? Those other people in the terminal weren’t and congrats – as far as ICE is concerned, you’re one of them now), and the line isn’t even going to start moving until customs personnel come to work in four hours.

  25. What’s the big deal about being delayed on the Tarmac? As long as the airlines will open up the food and entertainment services that are available in-flight, I don’t see th big deal…just pretend you’re airborne for christ sakes. If I cn watch a film and order a drink, I don’t care if we are in flight nor delayed.

  26. I wish someone would explain why we can’t hang out 4 hours in the airport waiting area with space to walk around, water fountains, restrooms, and perhaps a coffee vendor, instead of in the plane with none of this stuff. OK, so there is a rule about taking off luggage when passengers leave the plane. Are you trying to tell me that it is impossible for the the airline to guess that there will be a multi-hour wait for takeoff before boarding? Where are the clever, tech savvy entrepreneurs who can invent ways to predict waits for takeoff?

    1. You don’t have kids or cats do you?

      If you told people that “I know you were supposed to fly at 2 today, however because of snow and delays at other airports, we won’t be able to take off until 6. Please show up here at 5:30 and everything will be great”, at 5:30 you would only have 85% of the passengers on board.

      So what you might ask, but I can assure you that those 15% would also be the exact same people who will scream bloody murder and call every media outlet they know of to complain. They will claim victimhood and all sorts of other stuff.

      The other problem is that bad weather and disruptions caused by delays at other airports introduce a lot of uncertainty in the pattern at any given airport.

      If there was a magic algorithm that allowed you to cleverly get everyone to where they wanted on time, don’t you think they’d be doing that already?

  27. Is this much ado about nothing?

    Ok…so this is yet another example of what someone above called “Nanny Government”. But, if it only occurs once in every 6200 flights, there’s not much there to regulate.

  28. I’d believe you if USAir didn’t charge twice what Southwest charges for the same service.

  29. “The occasional horror story gets a lot of attention.”
    It’s not occasional, you twit. Every person I know — EVERYONE — has an airline horror story.

    Is it now the libertarian view that failing businesses should be propped up with gratitude?

    1. I was stuck on the runway for two hours! The horror, the horror!

      1. The HUNGER! From The Kids in the Hall:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krHu4E65khA

  30. You can’t have it both ways! If this is as small a problem as you claim, then the regulation will also be a small problem, since a tiny percentage of the flights will be affected.

    This is a long needed regulation.
    Being trapped on an aircraft, under threat of arrest if you leave, is very unpleasant and even dangerous. It is not something an airline should be allowed to inflict. Furthermore, it’s not like you have much of a choice to accept or not accept this condition of travel – all airlines do it.

    And, for the libertarians who oppose this rule, remember, the threat of arrest is a government rule already. How about we trade: you drop the arrest rule (so we can unlock the doors and get out on our own) and the feds can drop the 3 hour rule. Deal?

    1. I’ll agree to the deal, but with one added stipulation: if after a 15 minute delay, one of your fellow passengers decides he’s had enough and demands to be allowed off, leading to a minimum half-hour delay for his luggage to be unloaded, the airline shall be absolved of any responsibility for the delay, and you promise not to subject anyone to any whining.

    2. And, for the libertarians who oppose this rule, remember, the threat of arrest is a government rule already. How about we trade: you drop the arrest rule (so we can unlock the doors and get out on our own) and the feds can drop the 3 hour rule. Deal?
      reply to this

      Whose idea is it to make the arrest rule?

    3. “You can’t have it both ways! If this is as small a problem as you claim, then the regulation will also be a small problem, since a tiny percentage of the flights will be affected.

      This statement is demonstrably false. Let’s say one plane is required to turn around and allow people to deplane and then board again due to this regulation. That means one airport terminal that was expected to be cleared is now occupied when another flight comes in to land, meaning another plane sits on the tarmac. Now, because both flights are suffering delays, it’s quite likely that passengers on each plan may miss connecting flights, requiring they wait in airports or overnight in hotels paid for by the airlines.

      But at least the passengers on the first flight will get to… sit in chairs in a terminal instead of sitting in chairs in a fuselage…

  31. I agree with the author that the declining amenities are due to most customers preferring to save money. My main beef with the airlines is the increasing practice of padding nominal prices with quasi-obligatory surcharges. ($10 extra per limb.)
    I remember a trial balloon being floated regarding having pay-toilets on planes. Trust me, that airline will not want me as a customer. (Steward, could you dispose of this bottle for me?)

  32. I find it very interesting that so many defend the airlines.

    Listen, I agree that it’s asinine that one person could screw a flight over.

    However, an airline ticket is a contract. You pay them money for a service. In return, you agree to abide by their rules- you agree to sit when they tell you, buckle your seatbelt when instructed, and flip through a magazine while they demonstrate safety features. In other words, you agree that your right to liberty is limited by the airline.

    However, just as free speech should not stop at the schoolhouse gate, the airline industry should not have total carte blanche to deprive you of your right to liberty. At a certain point, due to the legal penalties for disobeying crew member instructions, sitting on a tarmac is tantamount to unlawful imprisonment(well, it is technically lawful, thanks to FAA policies. Let’s call it forced, unwilling imprisonment).

    To put it another way: How long can an airline make you wait on a tarmac? Maybe 6 hours is fine… but what about 12? What about 24? 48? At a certain point, the airline has violated its contract, and therefore should lose the ability to deprive you of liberty. Otherwise, a plane is no different than Guantanomo Bay.

    1. Each airline has its own specific policies regarding this sort of thing. They are well aware that they have a tube full of paying customers and they have to weight their comfort with the hassle it takes to move a plane back to a terminal and either make some other planes wait for it to be unoccupied, or continue to divert them to different terminals. Anyone who is dissatisfied can either ask for a refund and go home, or grit their teeth and never use that particular airline again.

      There is no need for the government to step in and make tarmac wait-times universal.

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  34. Just another government intervention that shows how much smarter than us those politicians think they are.

  35. I am a professional pilot for a domestic airline and all I have to say is, Amen! Mr. Chapman, I am happy that someone outside the industry finally gets it, if only the mainstream media outlets used the same logic and reasoning when reporting on similar issues.

  36. Airline delays have practically nothing to do with the airlines. They’re entirely a function of the government-run air traffic control (ATC) system, which is woefully undercapacity for the traffic it has to accommodate. The airlines, if they choose to meet the flying demands of the public, have no choice but to use this antiquated and hopelessly undercapacity system, which like anything run by the government, is run incompetently and without regard for airline schedules or passenger concerns. I say this as one who has flown several thousand hours under ATC, though not as an air carrier pilot. Interestingly, the actual traffic controllers, tower, approach, and center operators, are highly trained and competent and generally do their best to accommodate traffic requirements. The real problem is that the system, as it’s presently configured, is hopelessly undercapacity for the current level of air traffic out there.

    Blaming the air carriers for the problem is the same as blaming them for doing their best to meet public demand. They’re basically trying to operate within an air transporation system that’s as antiquated as the US road system before the interstates.

  37. FIRSTLY…it isn’t “airlines” that have bourn the brunt of illogical CHEAP flights…it is “airline EMPLOYEES” their pay has been reduced to near welfare level. While airline management pay has increased over 400% since the early 1990’s.

    Never fear, when an airline Union attempts to use it’s democratic right to hold back it’s labor, the first group to demonize them is the selfish flying cheap ticketed American public (except business passengers who know full well what the deal is)

  38. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets…in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it’s literally a labyrinth, that’s no joke

  39. Just another government intervention that shows how much smarter than us those politicians think they are.
    reply to this

  40. No, that would be an airport employee (which may or may not be an employee of the local government at some smaller airports.) The government doesn’t take control until 5 miles outside of the airport.

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