Robert Poole on Reregulating Airlines


About twice a decade someone comes along with a book denouncing airline deregulation as a threat to safety, writes Robert Poole. It always turns out that what the author is really lamenting is the loss of monopoly wages and benefits for the employees of a formerly cartelized industry. This year's installment in that ongoing series is travel reporter William McGee's Attention All Passengers.

Here is the tall tale McGee wants us to buy: Back in the 1960s and '70s, the airlines were wonderful places to work. (McGee was a dispatcher at "the world's greatest airline," Pan Am.) Flying was a pleasure for passengers: free meals, leg room, numerous empty seats, big planes going to small towns, etc. Then along came this thing called deregulation, with the ensuing dog-eat-dog competition kicking off a downward spiral that has continued to this day, worsening dramatically during the last decade.