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.
— Erin Andrews (@ErinAndrews) June 23, 2022
Ya I don’t want to argue. Tired of it. Tired of flights that don’t have pilots being scheduled. Tired of having to pay money to stay over night bc the flight wasn’t going to take off anyway. No need to argue. Just regulate it. Do the right thing.
— Erin Andrews (@ErinAndrews) June 23, 2022
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.
- 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!).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.