Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The future for air travel: Dig deeper

There are three choices, as I see it, for the airline industry (and they are not necessarily mutually exclusive):

1. We all stop accepting the status quo and just refuse to fly. That will cut down on traffic, ease congestion and force airlines to re-earn our trust and business. If that includes raising prices to a level that allows them to actually run their business in a way that provides an acceptable level of service, so be it.

2. Re-regulation. Congress steps in, viewing air travel almost like a utility that needs to be regulated. Airlines are allowed to earn certain, regulated profits, which would be reflected in the price of tickets (i.e. the days of $300 cross-country flights are over). Congestion eases, service quality goes up and it is the 1960s all over again: air travel is for business people and those who are willing to pay.

3. Things keep going the way the are and the system collapses under its own weight. Airlines will go out of business, the survivors will be in a better position to raise prices and run a real business.

There's a common thread here: Prices must keep going up. People like me can't bitch about crappy service and then not be willing to pay for good service.

And I realize that paying $1,000 for a ticket that used to cost $300 is not going to change the realities of weather. What it will do, however, is cut down on traffic and allow the airlines to run a system that actually has slack built into it, so that we don't have to live in airports, waiting for the next flight out.

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