Delta is the latest airline with an animal mishap. The airline mistaken flew a dog all over the country before finally getting him home recently. That’s better than the fate of the poor pouch who flew United recently. As Glenn Reynolds points out in his USA Today column, that little guy suffocated to death.
Air travel is getting worse and worse. No one looks forward to flying anymore. Unless, of course, they are flying overseas. Many airlines in Europe and Eurasia provide, shall we say, significantly better experiences. Reynolds argues that’s due to competition:
United has apologized, but a lot of my friends on social media are promising never to fly United again. Of course, United knows that these threats — like the threats to boycott United after it took away NRA members’ discounts, or broke a man’s guitar, or ordered a passenger to be dragged off a plane — are ultimately not much to worry about. Because in today’s airline world, there’s not a lot of competition.
The fact is that between airline mergers and hub-and-spoke networks, most air routes are dominated by one or two airlines. It’s not like the heady competitive days of the 1980s, which is why fares are up and service is down.
And given the risks involved in starting up an airline, and the advantages that big established airlines hold, the prospects of getting new competition in the United States are slim. Unless…
Unless that competition comes from somewhere else. I think that we should lower fares, and improve service, by letting select foreign airlines carry passengers between American cities. (This is called “cabotage” in the trade).
The Big Three airlines are using the levers of power to keep competition out of the United States. They are also attempting to stack the deck globally by lobbying to rescind the “Open Skies” agreement, argues Jared Whitley in the Investor’s Business Daily. Whitley writes:
This effort has been dearly bought with millions upon millions spent on lobbyists and other advocacy efforts. The groups opposing Gulf carriers spent almost $10 million in 2015 and 2016 alone! Instead of spending that much money to make things “fair,” imagine how much better it would have been to simply invest that money in a better flying experience for your passengers.
I never flew Etihad or Qatar, but the main thing I came to expect from flying Emirates is more legroom, better food, and much more attractive cabin crew.
Consumers benefit from competition. The more airlines have to compete for our money, the more we’ll enjoy bigger, better rides and airports. But the more the Big Three consolidate their power, the worse service we’ll get.
Open skies agreements allow airlines from around the world compete on a global market by allowing them to set their own routes and prices, thus creating options for tourists and travelers when picking fights. It’s basically the free market for air travel.
If Americans want better air travel, they should support policies like Open Skies which enhance competition.