Wednesday, May 28

Go ahead, regulate my day

After reading Geoff's narrative "Heathrow works, Chicago sucks, Edam isn’t" I'm prone to muse about a conversation I had with Judy-Bob recently, regarding the possible return of regulation to the US airline business. I don't recall flying (much?) before the Airline Deregulation Act became law in 1978. Apparently it was implemented in stages.

What would regulation entail? Simply, the airlines would be told what routes to fly, and at what price. Given existing passenger demand, the airlines would have to accommodate the traffic, rather than creating it via incentives (long gone are the $99 LAX-NYC flights, with free-flowing champagne and gourmet meals).

Southwest wouldn't have more of a price advantage than American Airlines, but the former would probably be less profitable since they'd have to deviate from their short hop mantra (locally .. who wants to endure the grief of DFW airport when you can enjoy yourself at DAL (Love Field)? Then again, American still finds it impossible to turn a plane in less than an hour, while Southwest has the twenty (20) minute turn down to a science.

Regulation/deregulation isn't something that can be turned on or off like a switch, but I suspect that's due to incompetence more so than feasibility. Let's assume the FAA mandates the return to regulation on 1.1.2010 .. this would give everyone more than enough time to plan the routes, sell the tickets, staff the facilities, etc.

One comment J-B made astounded me: "there are seldom more than 28 different fares on any given flight". Twenty eight?? In the regulated days, there were apparently four ticket prices on a given flight: First Class, Full-Fare Coach and two (2) discounted coach fares. Why the airlines have so many different fares has been written about ad nauseum, but I still find the number 28 absurdly high .. complexity leading to increased cost and all that rot. Certainly, there's a subset of the public who takes great glee in excavating the lowest possible fare between points (using the airline's own silly rules* against them) but I suspect they're truly in the obscure minority.
* hidden city fares come to mind as one example
Honestly, I can't see the return to regulation in my lifetime. The US air travel system is so horribly broken (with enough politics to make even Karl Christian Rove go batty) that it cannot be fixed. Ever.

PS to Geoff: regulation would most certainly not fix ORD (Chicago O'Hare). Suggest you hub through CVG (Cincinnati) in the future, when making the LHR-SEA run.


Geoff said...

LHR to SEA via CVG? That makes no sense, mostly because there are no nonstops from LHR to CVG....

Given that I want to stay on Star Alliance, my best bet is to go via YVR on AC.

Gene said...

{sigh} After I posted that, I thought "I'll bet Geoff takes that suggestion literally".

When I first started flying, I used a 2D map to plot likely hub locations for my flights. Eventually, I came to realize that in some cases it made much more sense to use a "string on a globe" instead - I've since taken my share of polar flights to understand this.

Then again, certain illogic may dictate the most logical (!) flight arrangements. Consider LHR-CDG-SEA of LHR-LAX-SEA instead of the LHR-ORD-SEA that you experienced.

Geoff said...

"Then again, certain illogic may dictate the most logical (!) flight arrangements."

You mean like PEK-SIN-HYD on my recent trip? That was 4834 miles; a direct flight, if available, would have been 2767 miles. (The shortest practicable routing would have been PEK-DEL-HYD at 3154 miles, but there are few flights on the PEK-DEL route. Ethiopian Airlines flies it, occasionally...)

Geoff said...

And obviously you should be using the Great Circle Mapper, rather than string on a globe.