Anti-Airline Post

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I’ve thought for a while now that the airline industry is failing us Americans. Aside from the countless delays, cancellations, and the inevitable holiday news report of people stranded in airports, flights are expensive, it takes way too long to board a plane, and each airline has its own points system to try to foster some semblance of brand loyalty. I don’t think the average person is too attached to any one airline; there are those that we avoid because their food is horrible, they’re always late, or they crash, but I don’t really care which one I’m on as long as I get from point A to point B in a timely, economical manner.

It isn’t just the fact that they always delay their flights or trap customers into points systems. What’s worse is the massive amounts of money hemorrhaging from the industry. In 2001, the government sunk $5 billion into the industry because it simply didn’t have enough money. I fail to see how an airline is unprofitable. You’ve got a pretty much captive group of people who need your service; businessmen can’t always just videoconference their pals in Tokyo. I don’t make a ton of money, but the University is paying for me to fly to WWDC in San Francisco. There are countless others doing similar things. The money is there, so why the billions and billions in government aid?

The way I see it, if the government is going to pay for the whole thing anyway, they might as well run it. I’m not sure that the bureaucracy of the government would do anything about the delays, but I can see it working out in a few key areas:

  • Unions: if the government is behind the airlines, then the security personnel, pilots, stewardesses, etc. are all government workers. I’m no lawyer, but I think that could help avoid all the strikes.
  • Frequent Flyer Miles, WorldPerks, etc.: if the government owns all the airlines, there’s only one points system. Easy enough.
  • Security: Instead of having the government watch over airline security, have it be an integral part of airline security.

There are a million more reasons where that came from. I don’t necessarily want “big government” as this post may suggest, but I believe that if there’s a service that some portion of the public relies on, that service should be available, reliable, and inexpensive. I think that the airlines are failing on all three counts, and so making them governmet-run would alleviate the problem.

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