Erin Andrews Calls For Airline Regulation Over Delta’s Poor Performance

I only first learned who Erin Andrews was when she sued after being videotaped inside her room at the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University. The sports reporter is a media superstar, and she’s had enough of Delta – so much so that she’s calling on government to regulate the airline industry.

Andrews doesn’t say exactly what government should do here. Consider,

  • Deregulation meant that the federal government no longer told airlines what routes to fly or what prices to charge. Prices were kept artificially high by government and lowering prices was forbidden because the mission of regulators was to ‘prevent ruinous competition’. This was intended to keep profits high, not to benefit consumers.
  • Airlines are, today, still among the most heavily-regulated businesses in the U.S. They control very little of the flying experience. Airports are owned by government, security and air traffic control are mostly performed by government. Everything on board the aircraft is regulated <even giving out hand sanitizer. There’s very little an airline can do without permission of government, or that’s directly controlled by government.

However there are things that could be made better.

  1. Spin off air traffic control to increase throughput. Currently we can’t make long-term investments in technology to improve air travel because it’s subject to the vagaries of annual Congressional appropriations. A separate non-profit entity could issue bonds for longer-term improvements, the way it’s done in Canada and elsewhere (where the data is clear on performance and efficiency, U.S. government air traffic control is only just eliminating paper flight strips!).
  2. Allow congestion pricing to replace slot controls, and use it at more airports Slots as property rights for incumbent airlines are subsidies for those carriers that have been granted them, and keep out competition. They limit flights at arbitrary levels while keeping fares high. Instead allow airlines to schedule flights but bear the cost of doing so at peak times in order to limit congestion. That allows any new entrant to fly provided it’s worth the cost of doing so.
  3. Eliminate long-term gate leases by governments which become captured by major airlines. At Atlanta the airport does Delta’s bidding and makes it tough for new airlines to fly or offer convenient service to passengers for instance. Governments shouldn’t be in the business of letting airlines lock up an airport.
  4. Stop making it almost impossible to sue airlines The Airline Deregulation Act creates the DOT as regulator, while pre-empting state regulation of airlines. The Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean that state contract claims cannot be pursued, so an airline can be sued for violating the plain wording of its terms and conditions but not over commonlaw claims of duty of good faith and fair dealing. Airlines shouldn’t be exempt from suit, torts are one of the strongest regulators of business behavior.
  5. Eliminate foreign ownership restrictions foreign businesses should be able to start and buy U.S. airlines. Singapore Airlines for instance ought to be able to enter the U.S. market, bound by U.S. laws. For this to be useful reforms to gate lockups and slots are needed.
  6. More pilots revisit the 1500 hour rule which doesn’t contribute to safety – reform pilot training requirements so that focused training rather than mere hours – 8 times as many hours as 15 years ago, and emulated nowhere else in the world – can offer better experience. The rule was a sop to pilots’ unions under the guise of safety, limiting the number of people who become pilots (by making it arduous and expensive) and granting unions greater leverage. But this is limiting air ravel without discernable benefit.

We need more competition and we need more capacity, at airlines and in airspace. Hand waving that ‘the government should do something’ isn’t enough without specifying what the government should do. But, as Erin Andrews demonstrates, there’s a felt need out there for ‘something’ to be done.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So… what the general public and bloggers don’t know is over 50% of delay issues are on government regulated ATC. The delays are tough but seriously the airlines are up against a lot. The same labor shortage everyone on this blog is experiencing in their business and they are the most volatile industry against oil prices. Very few airlines are going to post profits and when they do , it’s only making up for billions lost that even federal money couldn’t cover. Everyone plays the blame game for airlines but it’s pretty much all airlines worldwide. The business is extremely tough right now and the government hasn’t done a good job supporting us operationally as it is so no idea what regulations will do.

  2. I pretty much agree with all of that except maybe foreign ownership of airlines and the minimum flight time. Its a libertarian viewpoint for sure. And you are right, the airlines LOVE regulation when it favors them, and hate it when it costs them. By and large though, regulation favors the incumbents. Its interesting how that scrappy little airline called Southwest in the 70’s had to sue to get to fly out of Love field, and how Representative Wright was able to pass federal legislation to restrict flights out of Love in order to “protect” the fledgling DFW at the time. That protected profits, yet Texas is a libertarian state. Then the Wright amendment went away, and now Love field was going to be too busy. So lets restrict the airport to 20 gates and give Southwest a virtual monopoly there.

    Sure, DFW is only 8 miles west, but what about MY airline? Its expensive to fly out of DFW. I want to fly out of Love. I jokingly commented that I want to start up an ULCC and base it at Dallas Love, and I need 5 gates. So Dallas what are you going to do? Obviously Dallas will reply that the gates are already leased out, so I have to due Dallas to get access.

    Gate leases are stupid. Airlines want their branding in the gate area. We have something called video screens that can change at a moments notice. Make all gates generic, and force airlines to schedule slots at gates. I only need to give 30 days notice that I plan to start flying into that airport and I need a gate slot. Yes, I need to arrive at 1645 and depart at 1730. Oh, surge pricing? No problem. Delta is selling tickets at $300, I’ll sell mine at $250. But you say I can’t because I don’t own any slots, and I have to lease slots from other airlines that own them, but aren’t using them?

    Foreign ownership. Only foreign countries that have 5th freedom rights should be allowed to do so. France? I want to set up a hub over there. I can’t? Well, then you can’t do that here either.

    ATC, yes I agree there too. As long as it is not contracted out to the lowest bidder. But a quasi independent corporation makes sense so long as Congress doesn’t do stupid things like it does with the USPS in requiring it to have a fully funded pension plan. The only government involvement should be to guarantee the bonds, and have oversight to the point that the entity must perform well. “you have one job to do, do it well” says the Senator. But that entity needs revenue. That entity charges by the “ton mile” so to speak in railroad terms. Figure out a rate structure that is flexible, serves the airlines, public and infrastructure well, and charge accordingly. (But private flying is exempt and subsidized by the big boys paying the fees).

  3. Not sure if using your status to spread your opinions is a good or bad thing, or if any of the ideas to regulate would work, however many businesses not just airlines are struggling with employment, hiring and staffing issues. For example, my mother is using hospice services and my perception is that they are hiring anyone to be a nursing assistant so long as they have a car to get to homes and can walk. Not to say we haven’t had some good people, but we have had some awful in the past year. Point is, you cannot “make” anyone apply for or accept a job. Particularly with the skill set needed for a pilot. However, she has a point about selling tickets for flights that may not depart or are cancelled. At a minimum they ought to be able to provide some sort of tamper proof voucher for a deeply discounted hotel rate and have a list of hotels in the area to use. As well as make known a list of travel insurance companies that would cover an unforeseen cancellation/overnight stay. This further burdens and incoveniences passengers though.

  4. None of the above ideas are even close to good except for maybe chaining up ATC.

    *If airlines would be easily sued, there would be no airlines left to fly anyone anywhere. Seriously…they would all be broke.
    *Allow foreign airlines to invest and operate…. NO!!! Last thing we want and no it would not make airlines more competitive, it would force them to cut routes due to increased costs to compete. some of these companies we would have to face, like SQ get deep pockets and can survive longer losing money.
    *As a pilot , I think the 1500 hour rule is fair. It took me 18 months to log 1000 hours busting my butt teaching. You learn leadership, communication skills and most importantly Aeronautical Decision making. How stupid, how ridiculous and how ignorant and how un-informed anyone is who thinks this should go back to how it was. I DO NOT WANT A 250 hour pilot on the flight deck… PERIOD! 750 MINIMUM with Military experience. 1000 with a degree from an aviation university and 1500 for all others. It makes sense. We are in the safe period in American aviation history.. let’s keep it that way. Do not think short term stop gaps will solve problems.

  5. SMR is just an ALPA, APA or SWAPA mouthpiece. Pay no attention to him/her/they/xe/xer/it/that.
    Shut up, show up (to work) and fly the damn plane.

  6. This lady should just fly private and keep it moving or better yet, she should try British Airways. I hear they’re a fine-tuned operation these days. Entitled people are insufferable. Does she want people to be enslaved and forced to work for her sake? Also, if there’s no deep analysis as to why the flights were cancelled then it’s very lame. Were any of the cancellations due to weather?

  7. 100% correct. If you think the airlines are bad now, just wait until they’re run by politicians.

    The reality is that the United States does not have a free market when it comes to aviation – neither airlines or airports. Airlines are protected by all manner of special laws and regulations that let them operate without any accountability for failing to fulfill their promises and are systematically bailed out by taxpayers when their businesses collapse. They have nearly zero incentive to make you happy or satisfied, because screwing passengers has almost no cost and they have nothing to lose. Until we can sue airlines like every other business, nothing will improve.

  8. @Robin Rouser – I have no problem with people in a position to have many followers to use that to spread a message (even if I don’t agree with the message). Also her complaint isn’t that there are staff shortages (like many industries) – she states that. The issue (and I think a very valid one) is that airlines are scheduling flights with the full knowledge some will have to be cancelled due to staff shortages. Also, they are pressed to the limit so when there are weather issues or even flight delays due to congestion at an airport it ripples through the system since there are no back up staffing available like in the past. This is legit and, while not a fan of over regulation, I do think something needs to be done to ensure the airlines can deliver on what they sell.

    @BkAloha – jealous much? And on your last point – I understand weather causes issues in the best of times but staffing is stretched now and there is no redundancy at all in the system. If you don’t believe me listen to the Delta and Southwest pilots that have had informational pickets regarding over scheduling and staff burnout

  9. @ SMR — I bet the crooked airlines profits are just fine. Ultimately, that’s all they care about.

  10. What the USA needs is strong consumer protection, a la EU261. Cancel? Pay up. Significant delay? Pay up. Deny boarding due to oversell? Pay up. A lot of the predatory practices will stop when the airlines have to provide clearly defined monetary compensation.

  11. Foreign ownership of US carriers is a dangerous path. There is a lot of data available through airline ownership. Perhaps it would be OK for 5-eyes countries to have that ownership, but it could be problematic beyond that.

  12. YES. The solution to huge corporations having complete control over all areas of our lives is less regulation of said corporations! I am sure the market fairy will just step in and solve all these problems with more “FREEDOOM”.

    I am sure that won’t result in even more power for corporations and worse lives for everyone living here. If the last forty years of life in America has taught us anything, it is that we need to keep dismantling all limits on corporations and keep moving in the direction of complete, blissful “freedom”.

    I know Gary did not read a book at age 13 that has shaped the rest of his life unlike those foolish Christians who are so dedicated to the ideas of a single, ridiculous book.

  13. Oh no! Erin Andrew’s has been inconvenienced! The horror!
    Massive reform of the system coming in 3…2…1…

  14. If I can’t sue them, passenger compensation laws like Europe would help a lot.

  15. Has there been any analysis of which carriers are suffering the most cancellations and delays? It does seem to be much worse for some of the big carriers than others.

  16. Poor, poor Erin. Inconvenienced once again. As my friends in the South like to say: Bless her little heart!

    “And you are right, the airlines LOVE regulation when it favors them, and hate it when it costs them.”. Digging deep to figure out which industries like more regulation.

  17. @Koggerj, Monkeypox is not a gay disease. It does spread more easily by sexual contact. But I’m guessing that after a Vegas convention that there would be more heterosexual spread. But, it’s not not exclusively spread by sexual contact. To be more travel related, when you are stuck between a couple of people in a middle seat in coach, look carefully at the people putting their bare arms on the arm rests.

  18. @Koggerj: “Although a number of recently reported cases have occurred in homosexual men, WHO and other agencies have emphasized that the illness is not sexually transmitted and is spread from person to person via close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.” Therefore, passengers may unintentionally contaminate and inoculate themself with hMPXV (Human Monkeypox) from an infected person who last sat in their unsanitized airline seat. Reference:

  19. Señor Leff’s blog tells us a lot about what “his type” of woman is.

    Next up on a combination of The Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil Show: “My travel blogger husband has a certain kind of obsession with women travelers, what can be done about it?”

    Is it time to up the use of the Amex offers for flower orders?

  20. Five Eyes countries are the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. A collective of countries with a very close intelligence/spying service arrangement. Sweden operates sort of like the de facto Sixth Eye, a troll of sort in the EU.

  21. GUWonder that’s fascinating! Thanks! All those countries speak English too! I think…..

    Oh, your post before that was hilarious!

    Ugh, maybe Garys wife looks like Erin Andrews. Maybe Gary’s wife IS Erin Andrew’s! Maybe its Gary’s world and we just live in it! LOL

  22. She needs to just go back to the sidelines and get lost with the rest of the worthless sideline talking heads!! Better still with all the wasted millions some network pays her, she could save us all from being exposed to her meaningless opinions and save herself from the agony she puts herself in by flying Delta or any other carried and call Next Jets.

  23. Privatizing ATC works great in Europe. We still get slot time delays — just yesterday, I had my arrival airport hold us at the gate for an hour, and when that cleared, the departure airport held us for a second hour. But we also get the massive layoffs during the COVID period. After all, the only risk of carrying too much staff is there but being enough work. If things return to normal, blame COVID, and who’s gonna come after you? So earlier in the week, I and several colleagues had delays due to understaffed German ATC.
    Do you really think this will help?

    On the other hand, EU 261/4: how many times have you been in an American airport and heard the announcement that the flight was overbooked, and could some volunteers please come forward?
    In Europe? Not so much. Even weather doesn’t absolve carriers from a duty of care to provide meals and lodging. And, sure, they don’t do it willingly or well, but they do try.

  24. About time they re-regulated airlines. Deregulation, including the great Trump taxpayer robbery of $65bn gifted to the airlines, has been an abysmal failure. Flying is a public good, not a private one.

    Even Canada is getting a new set of regulations protecting its taxpayers.

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