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If You Can Afford a Plane Ticket, Thank Deregulation

Forty years after the Civil Aeronautics Board was abolished, look how far we've come.

In the '50s and '60s, when I was growing up, air travel was a luxury. People dressed up as if going to church. There were lots of empty seats, so on night flights you could often get a row of three together and sprawl out. There was ample legroom, and full meals were served in coach.

My family and I were able to take vacations by plane only because my dad worked for an airline, and we flew on company passes when space was available. Since planes were typically only half full, we nearly always got seats on our chosen flights. But we were some of the lucky few.

Flying was a luxury because it was expensive, and it was expensive largely because of detailed federal economic regulations governing how air carriers could operate and, importantly, what they could charge. The government treated airlines as a kind of public utility and regulated them under the rationale that dog-eat-dog competition would threaten profitability and lead to skimping on safety.

Back then, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) allowed only one or two airlines to serve a given route. It also unilaterally set airfare rates, seeking to keep them high enough for the airlines to stay safely in business. No price competition was allowed, which meant no incentive for carriers to seek out greater efficiencies and pass the savings to consumers. Economists described the situation as a government-sponsored airline cartel.

The result was a huge amount of waste—and a mode of travel that was out of reach for millions of people. In 1977, the year before deregulation, only a quarter of adult Americans took a trip by air, compared with nearly half in 2017. And only 63 percent had ever flown in 1977, compared with 88 percent today.

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 laid the groundwork for all these restrictions to be swept away. If you've set foot on a commercial airplane in the last four decades, you probably have that law—and the many people who pushed for it—to thank.

A Bonanza for Passengers

My very first Reason article, in 1969, argued that airlines should be allowed to fly wherever they wanted and charge whatever prices they thought sensible. My dad, then a facilities engineer at Eastern Airlines, read the article, laughed, and told me that would never happen.

Nine years later, the impossible did happen. Congress moved to phase out price and entry controls and set a date—January 1, 1985—for the CAB to disband, which it did, on schedule.

CSA-Printstock/iStockCSA-Printstock/iStockAirline deregulation had many fathers. As early as the mid-1960s, economists were studying airline markets within California and Texas—since the flights didn't cross state lines, they were not subject to the same regulations—and finding that competition led to more affordable prices.

That work came to the attention of a Harvard law professor knowledgeable about regulatory policy, Stephen Breyer, who joined the staff of a congressional committee headed by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D–Mass.) in 1974. At the time, the CAB was under media scrutiny for imposing a moratorium on new airline routes, and Breyer urged Kennedy to hold hearings. They happened in 1975, helping to win support for deregulation from a diverse set of players including Ralph Nader, Common Cause, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

United Airlines played a uniquely important role. After repeatedly being denied access to new routes by the CAB, it broke with the other major carriers and refused to support the status quo. The company pushed for reform starting in 1974, which prevented the airline trade association from choosing sides, since its policy was to take positions on policy issues only if all member airlines agreed.

Breyer—who would later be appointed to the Supreme Court—related the whole story of how airline deregulation came about as a chapter in Instead of Regulation, a 1982 book I edited for Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this magazine. As he noted there, the 1978 law "did not mark any new beginning for the airline industry. Rather, it legitimated and extended the reform process that had begun in 1975."

President Gerald Ford's CAB chairman, John Robson, had begun allowing a degree of price competition and relaxed some other rigid rules. Jimmy Carter went further, openly advocating airline regulatory reform during his successful 1976 campaign for the presidency. He then appointed as CAB chairman economist Alfred Kahn, who expanded Robson's reforms by allowing even more price competition, including the "super-saver" fares introduced by American and widely emulated by other carriers. Kahn also exempted cargo airlines from CAB price and entry regulations.

Meanwhile, in Congress, Kennedy joined forces with Sen. Howard Cannon (D–Nev.) to sponsor the Airline Deregulation Act. As Peter Samuel reported in Reason in 1989, the sunset provision that eliminated the CAB was actually added to the bill by Rep. Elliott Levitas (R–Ga.), an opponent of reform. It was intended as a poison pill.

Levitas' provision was never debated. Fortunately, it was never deleted, either. As Samuel noted, this was "the first time in the history of federal regulation that a major agency was simply abolished by law."

The initial results of deregulation were dramatic. Some existing airlines, like Braniff, expanded recklessly and ended up in bankruptcy. Others, like Eastern and Pan American, struggled to adjust to the newly freed market, lost money for years, and ended up in bankruptcy, too.

Those that survived—including American, Delta, and United—did so by developing innovations such as the hub-and-spoke route system. (Instead of serving all cities directly, flights from smaller cities converge on large "hub" airports, where passengers can connect to numerous other destinations. This model allows an airline to serve far more locations with a given number of planes.) A few companies, like Southwest, focused on no-frills service with style. To build customer loyalty, nearly all airlines adopted frequent-flyer programs.

As legacy names such as Pan American and TWA met their demise, a new generation of startups, such as JetBlue and Virgin America, emerged. These prospered by combining competitive pricing with in-flight amenities, such as JetBlue's TV in every seat back. More recently, America has witnessed the birth of ultra-low-cost airlines such as Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit, whose economical fares make flying an option for even the most budget-conscious travelers.

These developments have been a bonanza for regular Americans. As air travel was democratized, passenger numbers soared. Commercial airlines carried 317 million domestic passengers in 1979. That figure had doubled to 636 million by 1999. Despite a decrease following the 9/11 attacks, growth soon resumed, reaching a new high of 704 million in 2009. Last year saw a total of 849 million passengers—nearly three times the number in 1979.

Since deregulation, commercial flight prices have followed an ongoing downward trend. In 1995, economists Steve Morrison of Northeastern University and Clifford Winston of the Brookings Institution built a model to determine what fares would have been if the CAB's pricing structure had remained intact. They found that deregulation had reduced fares by 20–30 percent in real terms.

And these benefits continue to accrue. In 1979, the first year of deregulation, the average domestic fare was $616 (in 2016 dollars), or 1.2 percent of average household income that year. The most recent comparable data I can find is for 2016, when the average fare was $344—a mere 0.6 percent of average household income.

Safer Than Ever

Despite the apparent success of airline deregulation, critics have persisted.

Initially, the worry was that an unleashed profit motive would lead to more accidents and deaths. John Nance's Blind Trust (1986) was a case in point. "The passenger was not told by Congress or the proponents of deregulation the ultimate truth about the enticing free-market proposal," asserted Nance, a former Braniff pilot. "If prices are cut, costs must be cut, and something more than executive salaries and union contracts will have to give. The cost of safety would be one of those affected items." When this did not actually happen, William J. McKee's Attention All Passengers (2012) argued that the trend of airlines contracting out maintenance and overhaul work posed major safety risks.

Had the critics been right, the results would surely have shown up by now in accident and fatality numbers. Yet these have all trended steadily downward. Fatalities per million miles flown is the most commonly cited airline safety statistic, but it's also somewhat misleading, since long-haul flights in large planes are safer than short flights in smaller planes. A more stringent measure is fatal accidents per million departures, which better accounts for the 49 percent of flights operated by smaller regional airlines.

According to figures from the National Transportation Safety Board, there were 2.1 fatal accidents per million departures in the 1950s, which decreased to 0.88 per million in the 1970s. During the first decade of deregulation, the 1980s, the rate fell by half to 0.46, and we've averaged just 0.12 in the 2000s. Even more impressive, from 2010 through 2017 there were zero fatal accidents in the United States on U.S. scheduled airlines.

Airline deregulation has been a bonanza for regular Americans. In 1979, the average inflation-adjusted domestic fare was $616. By 2016, it had dropped to $344.

Rather than analyzing the actual safety record, critics like McKee have mostly repeated labor union talking points. His real complaint is that deregulation has supposedly decimated airline employment, thanks to the outsourcing of various tasks. But that's also far from the truth. In 1978, on the verge of the Airline Deregulation Act, employment in the industry was 313,000. By 2000, after more than two decades of deregulation, it had climbed to 547,000.

Higher fuel prices and a drop-off in passengers after the 9/11 attacks did trigger cuts in airline employment as most airlines lost money. But they have now recovered, and employment has rebounded to 422,800 in 2017—35 percent higher than at the dawn of deregulation.

More Competitive Than Ever, Too!

Still, the critics of today's relatively free market in air travel keep raising new concerns and proposing re-regulation as the solution. The focus is increasingly on the mergers that have reshaped the industry in the past decade: Southwest acquired AirTran, Delta acquired Northwest, United acquired Continental, and American merged with U.S. Airways.

The resulting "big four" concentrated on expanding their route networks, which led to significant passenger growth at large and medium airports but very little growth (and in some cases declines) at small airports.

Whereas early opponents of reform thought competition was the enemy, modern critics think government is needed to keep the market humming. They allege that the post-merger configuration created a new cartel—a shared monopoly—that disadvantages passengers via fewer airline choices and higher fares. But if this were true, we should be noticing two things: rising airfares and fewer airlines serving certain routes. Instead, the data reveal exactly the opposite.

In a study commissioned by the commercial airline trade association Airlines for America, economists Daniel Kasper and Darin Lee of CompassLexicon, a consulting firm, found that ticket prices are at or near historical lows. They also found that competition among airlines flying between a large array of U.S. cities has increased since 2000.

While the "big four" carriers control most of the market, smaller airlines are growing far faster in terms of available seat-miles (ASMs). American, Delta, and United saw annual ASM growth of just 3 percent in 2016. By contrast, the figure was 53 percent for JetBlue, 65 percent for Alaska/Virgin, and 111 percent for Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit.

In 2017, researchers at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business looked into the so-called "Southwest effect"—the historical phenomenon that when Southwest Airlines joins a market, fares across carriers decline significantly. They examined 109 daily nonstop markets that Southwest entered between 2012 and 2015—after the wave of big-airline mergers—and found that prices decreased by 15 percent on average. The amount of traffic, meanwhile, increased by 28 percent on average. Even though Southwest has become one of the industry's biggest airlines, and despite the fact that it no longer offers the lowest fares, its mere presence in a market stimulates price competition.

When they take a break from worrying unnecessarily about competition, critics are keen to inject government into the relationship between airlines and their customers. For example, many carriers have divided their coach cabins into premium and regular sections, with seats placed closer together in the regular section and a higher price charged for premium coach seats. This has sparked calls for federal regulation of seat spacing. But when faced with the choice between more legroom at higher fares or less legroom at lower fares, the majority of U.S. passengers opt for the lower fares (not me, but I'm nearly 6 feet tall).

Some carriers have learned that lesson the hard way. In 2000, American Airlines increased its economy-class seat spacing, widely advertising "More Room Throughout Coach." With fewer seats than its competitors, it hoped to recover those losses by attracting more business overall. The experiment didn't work out, and after finding no real increase in passengers, American switched back to higher-density seating. A decade earlier, TWA had tried the same thing, with the same result.

We've also seen a push to regulate how airlines charge passengers for various services. Sen. Ed Markey (D–Mass.) has introduced a bill that would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to regulate change fees and cancellation fees and would direct the agency to "establish standards" for assessing whether baggage and seat-selection fees are "reasonable." The bill has been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee as an amendment to the pending FAA reauthorization bill.

There's little in the way of data to suggest that fees imposed by airlines are a problem. In 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the average domestic passenger paid $22.70 in ancillary fees, for a total ticket price of $366.92 (not including federal taxes and fees). The total was comparable in 2010 ($370.80) but higher in 2000 ($442.00), 1990 ($529.83), and 1980 ($652.67), all in 2016 dollars. So these ancillary fares are hardly undercutting the benefits of airline deregulation.

Moreover, ancillary fees are the key to the very low fares charged by budget carriers Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit. Their business models are based on undercutting "legacy" airlines on basic fares but generating some additional revenue by charging for certain optional items (like non-alcoholic drinks) that others provide at no charge. It's these no-frills carriers that continue the work of democratizing U.S. air travel.

More Deregulation on the Horizon?

In March 1978, six months before the passage of the Airline Deregulation Act, CAB Chairman Alfred Kahn warned FAA staff about the coming upheaval. He predicted the airline industry would grow more quickly after deregulation, recalls economist Dorothy Robyn in a forthcoming paper for the Transportation Research Board. Kahn recommended that the FAA push airports to change the pricing structure for using runways, in order to get more use out of a given amount of capacity. Alas, that message fell on deaf ears.

The gains from airline deregulation mostly result from the increased competition it fosters. But air travelers will continue to benefit only if the airline business remains competitive. While there's a lively market for air travel today, there are also serious constraints arising from this sector's largely unreformed airport and air traffic control (ATC) infrastructure.

The lack of competition at airports is a function of geography, which for obvious reasons often makes it difficult to add more runways as demand increases. But there are better and worse ways to allocate the finite amount of space. In a 1988 interview with Reason, Kahn argued for scrapping traditional runway charges based on aircraft weight in favor of market pricing. "When a Learjet with one or two or three passengers uses up space that would otherwise be used by 200 or 300 people on a larger plane," he said, "I do not believe in excluding them arbitrarily, but I believe in making them pay the price."

In 2008, the Department of Transportation changed federal rules on runway charging to permit congestion pricing in addition to the traditional weight-based fees. But none of America's overburdened airports have taken advantage of this more dynamic system. Privatized London Heathrow and Gatwick in the United Kingdom have done so, motivating their airlines to increase the average size of their planes and hence serving more passengers with their limited runway capacity. Stodgy U.S. airports, operating as state-owned enterprises, succumb to political pressure from legacy airlines, which benefit from limits on capacity at airports where they are already well-entrenched.

Increasing the number of airports would increase competition, but here again, political problems tend to arise. In his 1988 Reason interview, Kahn described testifying in Fulton County, Georgia, in favor of opening up the local airport to compete with giant Hartsfield Atlanta. Delta—whose largest hub is at Hartsfield—lobbied hard against the proposal, and it failed. Two subsequent efforts have met the same fate.

America's air traffic control system is in desperate need of reform as well. Outdated technology, grindingly slow bureaucracy, and a politicized funding structure continue to hobble a key part of the air travel system.

While some 60 nations now have self-funded ATC corporations (including Australia, Canada, Germany, and the U.K.), the United States still plods along with its tax-funded FAA bureaucracy. A serious corporatization bill was approved in 2017 by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and it looked for a moment like the legislation might have the needed momentum. Alas, it was withdrawn by its sponsor in February in the face of heavy opposition from business-jet and private-pilot organizations.

Despite these failures to further democratize air travel, competition in the industry is alive and well. Forty years after the historic Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, we're all better off for it. Here's hoping it doesn't take another four decades for America to go the last few miles.

Photo Credit: CSA-Printstock/iStock

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  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Thank Jimmy Carter (our most libertarian POTUS since Coolidge) for this.

    Also Ireland voted 68% for liberty in a defeat for Aborto-Freaks yesterday.

    Oh, and Good Morning Peanuts!

  • SIV||

    Nothing says "libertarian" like poisoning the nation's marijuana supply

  • Don't look at me.||

    And the grain embargo against the Soviets.

  • Allen Garvin||

    Parts of his administration were strongly anti-regulation. Interstate trucking & rail, natural gas, air travel, gasoline prices, all saw significant deregulation in cooperation with Congress. Oh, and homebrewing! Plus, his appointment of Volcker to the federal reserve turned out to be genius.

    The fact that Carter never brags or even talks about this aspect of his presidency, instead focusing on his support for human rights, CAFE standards, and goofy things like installing solar water heaters in the White House, all show he was kind of a clueless chief executive whose main virtue was not standing in the way of zeitgeist of the time.

  • Fancylad||

    "Buttplug" is Mengele's nom de guerre.
    "In order to terminate a pregnancy, you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain, and whatever the method, break some bones and rupture some organs." – Christopher Hitchens

    Anyway, congrats to Ireland on abandoning their humanity, and joining the monsters.

  • MarkLastname||

    You support Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, the CFPB, and practically every other regulation or social program. Your favorite President should probably be Johnson or Nixon, not Coolidge.

  • Moo Cow||

    Ahh yes. Jimmeh Cahtah. He had to divest his peanut farm. Those were the days.

  • creech||

    What are the chances any of today's Democrats would be so open to industry deregulation? Or Republicans, for that matter?

  • DavidTaylor||

    There's no need to politicize this particular issue in such a silly way. Airline regulation was the product of joint interests within the industry itself and a pliable government. Democrats support regulation for product safety, for example, but we know that is not why there was ever airline regulation. I have seen nothing but support for airline industry deregulation among Democrats and liberals, all of whom seem to want greater access of the public to the benefits of air travel.

    Personally, I'd rather keep the price of plane travel high, avoiding all of those flights I take with large families of screaming kids, obese, sweaty guys in the next seat, etc. The comment today is that a flight makes its profit on the last couple of a seats sold, so there is a lot of interest in overbooking. Ugh. There was certainly a better class of passenger in those good old days!

  • Longtobefree||

    You sound like a perfect marketing target for first class flying.
    You pay more, and get less public on the public airplane.
    Everybody wins.

  • DavidTaylor||

    I sometimes do fly first class, or business class on international flights, but why should I pay that much more to get the same comfort that I used to get at a fraction of that price?

  • Sevo||

    You don't have to. Don't fly.

  • Johnimo||

    DavidTaylor, you can avoid all those hassles by just driving your own car. You can listen to Outlaw Country, ground-level gaze at the scenery, and eat meals with metal utensils. You'll have fun avoiding the airlines. Oh, the horror of modern airline travel!

    You could ride a bicycle and get some exercise. I'm certain you'll come up with comfortable alternatives. Good luck ... we all hope you make it.

  • Moo Cow||

    Elderly man yells at clouds...

  • DavidTaylor||

    Yeah, and get off my front yard!

  • esteve7||

    I find this hard to believe. It's far more likely that Liberals know it's suicide to argue against airline deregulation, but don't connect the dots that that success story could be repeated with other deregulation. How you can be for airline deregulation but for increased regulation everywhere else is a nice internal contradiction. Take net neutrality. That's like asking to reregulate the airlines

  • DavidTaylor||

    Well, I'll confess that I don't see much equivalence between, say, regulations that help insure that drugs are effective and safe, and airline regulations that were designed simply to keep ticket prices high. It's easy to imagine that someone is either for or against regulation, but I -- and most of the people I know in health care -- take regulation on a case by case basis, trying to weigh the pros and cons.

    I made a mildly tongue-in-cheek comment about preferring airline ticket prices to be high, but your comment makes me wonder what, exactly, is the "success" of airline deregulation that you refer to? More people can fly? That's a mixed blessing, at best (see the article in today's Washington Post about the guy on a flight from St Croix to Miami -- I cann't post the link since it is more than 50 characters long....)

    Overbooking to insure that every seat is sold? Smaller seats and less leg room to pack more people into the plane? Increased security, and it's annoying theater, when more and more people jam up flights?

  • Johnimo||

    Let's deregulate education. Ending tax support for public schools will result in a far greater variety of schools, unburdening our educators from the angst of trying to be all things to all students. Currently, private schools cost about 70% of government run schools, and that doesn't include the unfunded liabilities of public teacher's retirement funds.

  • Michael Ahlers||

    You're terrible. Judging by this comment—and others you've made on this thread—your position is summarized: you want government to deny people (you've deemed lesser than yourself) a commodity you enjoy by artificially inflating its price (to a point within your means).

  • hello.||

    Democrats support regulation for product safety

    Lol. They sure do. Always looking out for you those Democrats. They certainly don't cynically support regulation to further their own interests and then use product safety as the justification. No sir.

  • DavidTaylor||

    I'm not sure what interests Democrats are furthering when they push for product safety regulation. It's clear that deregulation supports the interests of industry in maximizing profits -- that's fine, but if you want to return to the days of snake oil, harmful air pollution, cars in which you are more likely to die in an accident, fine. But don't pretend that Democrats are cynical when you cannot name "their own interests," especially when the economic interests of industry are patent.

  • Johnimo||

    It's pretty obvious what "interests" Democrats are furthering: a bloated government bureaucracy. In at least one industry it's obvious that government regulation has made automobiles less safe in pursuit of increased mpg standards. And how about those food labels? That's the biggest joke of all time. We're reaping the benefits of government recommendations with greater-than-ever obesity rates. We'll all find ways to "get by" without Big Daddy taking care of us.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Deregulation most certainly does not benefit corporations.

    Regulation cements the incumbents in place and largely disposes of any disruptive competition.

    Deregulation allows stagnant incumbent corporations to be out-competed by more nimble corporations with better products and customer service.

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    You mean the same government that pushed for a food pyramid that was politically influenced and they knew was BS? The same government that pushed for a global ban on DDT, causing millions of people in other countries to needlessly die of malaria?

    I'm thankful everyday that I don't expect goverment to protect me and am willing to take my own chances.

  • gimmedatribeye||

    Keep the prices high so you don't have to mingle with the riff raff, right?

    You sound like an elitist prick.

  • Johnimo||

    It's hilarious and sad. The guy wants to ride first class but doesn't like the higher price for doing so. Maybe he should just use a charter service, or learn to fly his own plane. "Prick" is too nice a term.

  • Jerryskids||

    People dressed up as if going to church. There were lots of empty seats, so on night flights you could often get a row of three together and sprawl out. There was ample legroom, and full meals were served in coach.

    I've read many an article that starts out this way, only to go on and bemoan that fact that now that airline travel is such that any old slob can afford it, any old slob can be found in the seat next to you. The "instead of having his slobby ass on Greyhound where it belongs" is generally just implied. And no acknowledgement that this is how the free market frequently tends to work, not so much by making everybody rich enough to afford luxuries but by making luxuries cheap enough that everybody can afford them.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I've read a number of "we should re-regulate the airline industry' pieces over the years. Every goddamned one of them looked back on the days when a plane flight was something more than a Greyhound Bus in the sky with quivering nostalgia. The writers used to be part of The Elite, because they flew places!

    *spit*

    "Flying used to be on occasion!"

    Yeah, you elitist scumbag wannabe. And now you get to live like the rest of us. Boo Hoo.

    I don't fly. I have no urgent need to go anywhere I can't get to by ground transportation, and until the government stooges wake up and abandon Airline Safety Theatre (sort of like Mystery Science Theatre, but not funny) for something that has a chance of working (nuking Mecca springs to mind, but I'm a Crank), I don't see that changing.

  • Don't look at me.||

    It is a jobs program. Why do you want more unemployment? Think of the children.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Every time I hear or read the words "Think of the children", I think of the children, growing up under the thumbs of the kind of self-righteous buttinsky that says "Think of the Children" (in a non-ironic way). And I tend to assume that the person speaking is a pestiferous Progressive stooge who doesn't actually have an argument.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I haven't flown in probably 25 years, primarily because I don't fly for business but to visit family and go places, I like road trips, I like the flexibility of changing plans on a whim, I always need a car when I get there, and any small added costs on some road trips are easily worth the pleasure of not playing security theater for hours.

  • action physical man||

    In 2007 I finished building my own plane so that I wouldn't have to deal with the misery that is commercial flying. It is nice to be able to fly armed and carrying what ever the hell else you want. Unfortunately I sold it to go sailing thinking I'd never come back. Well, here I am back in the firggin' nanny state and working on another plane that I can't really afford. Until, I finish that, I intend to drive everywhere. I suppose a smarter man would rent or time share a plane for the few number of trips I will likely take:-\

  • action physical man||

    Those old turbojets look and sound sweet!;-)

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Ha. Ha. Ha.

    One of the airlines took delivery on some of the first 737s, and decided to indoctrinate entire families of airline employees, "Don't say dad flies 737s, say he flies Whisperjets." Why? Because on takeoff the original 737s were the most ungodly loud, end-of-the-world sounding machines anyone had ever heard. The aviation industry was so worried that local airports would ban them that they lobbied the federal government to make that illegal, with something called the "Airport Noise and Capacity Act."

  • Earth Skeptic||

    But it was the wrong kind of regulation!

    What we need is new age regulation:
    - ticket prices should be "affordable" for every comrade citizen (i.e. free)
    - all seating should be the same, but will preference somehow awarded based on virtue signals
    - cabin staff should be even more unionized, more surly, and (ideally) old, fat, and unattractive
    - routes and schedules should be determined not by customers but by congress
    - in-flight "entertainment" should consist of mandatory public service infomercials and agency puff pieces
    - any complaints will be handled by a new agency based in Guantanamo

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Don't kid yourself. The people who want to re-regulate may SAY anything, but what they WANT is a return to the days when people who flew,regularly were a social elite.

    *spit*

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    air travel was a luxury. People dressed up as if going to church.

    Even into the 1990s my grandmother would take 40 hour greyhound rides because she had it in her head that flying was an extravagant luxury (even thought the bus ride was hardly much cheaper).

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    And if you can't afford a plane ticket, who do you thank?

  • LarryA||

    In the '50s and '60s, when I was growing up, air travel was a luxury. People dressed up as if going to church.

    As I remember from back then, most people "dressed up" to leave their house: Dresses and heels for women, coats and ties for men. That was also white-collar workplace attire, hence the name.

    "Casual Fridays" weren't a thing until the late 1960s.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I would place it more in the late 1970's, at least as a phenomenon that was,referenced in the culture.

  • Presskh||

    Agree - casual Friday was definitely later than the 60's. I don't personally remember any widespread mention of it until the demise of the "yuppies" in the late 80's or early 90's.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    The OP here is another of the fairly common instances where benefits accruing to technical improvements get cited by ideologues seeking to cast preferred policies in the best light. However it was managed and regulated, the airline industry was destined to become notably more economical simply because the technology improved. That started with the civilian introduction of jet transports in the late 1950s, long before deregulation had any effect—and new technical efficiencies have just kept on coming since, making it quite difficult to unpack which public benefits and economies are attributable to deregulation, and which to technical advances.

    For a more encompassing example, the reputation of capitalism as a uniquely productive system has often been exaggerated by capitalist ideologues. They tend to hijack credit for contributions from the largely contemporaneous industrial revolution—which was by no means limited to capitalist systems, or uniquely bound to capitalism. One need not be a fan of Soviet totalitarianism to notice that the history of capitalism offers no example to rival the burst of economic development created between 1920 and 1940, by industrializing Russia under communist control.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Or you could look at Venezuela's socialism experiment, the killing fields in Cambodia, the fabulous economy in Cuba for more examples of non capitalist failure.

  • Sevo||

    "One need not be a fan of Soviet totalitarianism to notice that the history of capitalism offers no example to rival the burst of economic development created between 1920 and 1940, by industrializing Russia under communist control."

    If you are serious about that comment, there is no use going into detail on how catch-up systems work and how the USSR benefited from the earlier capitalist development. Or the reliability of the USSR's stats.
    Let's just say that either it's a joke, or you are some sorry excuse for an educated person.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Stats? Russian economic development passed the test that mattered. In 1919 Russia was an economic basket case, with a sub-anemic economy further devastated by a lost war, civil war, and a population on the brink of starvation. Surely you understand that.

    Then, in 1941 Soviet Russia absorbed the most powerful military blow ever struck against any nation. To save itself, it moved newly-created industrial capacity out of reach of German invaders. Amidst a war of attrition, it used that capacity to fight the Germans to their own collapse, winning the most gigantic land combat in history. Then it went on a counter-offensive. That arrived in 1945, bringing to the outskirts of Berlin the greatest assemblage of troops, tanks, artillery, aircraft, and transport that any nation has ever mustered. Some transport and aircraft were supplied by allies, but most Russian armament was Russian designed and Russian made, and included the best tanks in the war, by the thousands, and some of the best aircraft in the war, also by the thousands.

    Because material conditions in Russia sufficiently supported that effort, you don't have to worry about stats. Can you suggest any capitalist feat of industrial development which excels that one?

    You can't use ideology to discover facts. Trade ideological blinders for a bit of respect for experience. It will serve you better. Civility could help, too.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    As for catch-up systems, the relevant question would be, "Catching up to what?" And the answer to that question, in Russia's case, would surely not be, "Capitalism." Before the 20the century, Russia had not much industrialized. Catching up with the industrial revolution was what materially transformed Russia during the 20th century, not catching up with capitalism. Communists did that. They mobilized the capital, they mobilized the labor, they borrowed western-invented technology, and they invented technology of their own.

    Meanwhile, the world abounded with similarly undeveloped countries, mostly under capitalist economic management. Which among them did capitalist economic policies similarly transform, in a similar time interval, on a similar scale? Those, too, were free to "catch up," were they not? What in fact happened?

    If you decide to reply, take this suggestion. No ideologically-founded, pro-capitalist reply can accurately answer that query. That should tell you something about the weakness of relying on simplicities delivered by ideology to answer questions which experience has complicated.

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    Freer markets tend to drive technological improvements, so we are back to capitalism being a big driver of change.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Please notice, you are intoning an article of faith, not recounting experience.

    The subject is the aviation business. Consider interactions between government inputs and technological advances, and what improvements each might have delivered. Investigate the history of jet aviation, and I suggest you will find it deeply rooted in government programs in its early and middle stages, and comprehensively supported by government laws, programs, policies, and agencies right down to the present.

    Commercial aviation is one of the worst choices possible to illustrate free market advantages. Put commercial aviation on a true free market basis today, and the whole industry would disappear the moment it became clear to industry lobbyists that the change was permanent. No more FAA. No more security theater. No more special travel privileges for members of Congress. No more limitations on accident liability. No more post-terrorism special payoffs from the public. No more government supervised quality control for aircraft maintenance. No more NTSB accident investigations, and consequent industry-wide maintenance directives. No more federal bans on airport curfews and other noise restrictions. No more federal trade policy initiatives to prop up aircraft manufacturers. No more washing away union contracts with bogus bankruptcies. It goes on and on. So called "deregulated" aviation does not exist.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Such unsupported drivel requires refuting, even this late.

    Please notice, you are intoning an article of faith, not recounting experience.

    I presume you were looking in the mirror when you said that.

    The USSR and China demonstrate the exact opposite of what you claim. Yes, they both underwent severely delayed conversions to more industrial economies. They also lagged (and still do) their western, capitalist counterparts in wealth generation. The USSR lost the cold war because its economy collapsed in spite of access to significantly more resources than the west. China only started its path to significant growth once Deng's liberalization (read limited embrace of capitalism) was undertaken in the late 80's/early 90's, and it's per capita GDP is still quite low.

    And what do we see with your other planned economies? Venezuela is imploding quite nicely right now. Sweden had decades of stagnation after it abandoned the path of free markets (only to realize that it had no choice but to begin to return).

  • BigT||

    "One need not be a fan of Soviet totalitarianism to notice that the history of capitalism offers no example to rival the burst of economic development created between 1920 and 1940, by industrializing Russia under communist control."

    True. Per capita income increased a lot. That's what killing millions and enslaving the rest will do. For a while.

  • AlmightyJB||

    You should also thank the TSA for keeping demand low.

  • Sevo||

    TSA makes damn sure I do not fly SF - LA.

  • Noble Publius||

    Now let's talk about how *not* deregulating the train industry has protected the airline industry's deregulation for 50 years.