Wednesday, July 9, 2008

People Sick of Airline Problems

The numbers are actually not that surprising if you have traveled by air recently. 1/3 of people poled have said they are dissatisfied with current air travel procedures. 44% said they have missed a flight due to airline issues and delays (numbers came from the Today Show). Youtube and the blogosphere are being flooded with criticisms.

As the airlines struggle to hold-on since 9/11, more and more people are finding alternate means of travel, causing even more trouble for the airlines. Despite government help, many airlines are foundering. What should be done?

Some have suggested that we should form a nationalized airline. The problems with this solution are many, however. First, our government is incapable (at this point) of running such a costly and nuanced service smoothly (please consider Amtrak and the DMV). Second, the taxes that would be assessed for such a service would be horrendous, unless other programs would be cut to pay for it (should we skeletonize Social Security, Medicare, Welfare, or Defense?). Third, without competition, the nationalized airline would likely stagnate in services and options, offending its customers. Fourth, nationalizing the airline would not solve many of the problems the current airlines face, including fuel prices/shortages, aircraft upkeep, etc.

There is another solution, though, which I advocate, even though it has its own set of problems. The government should quit helping airlines from going under. Allow current airlines to go out of business. Allow the market to dictate how the travel industry should look. Right now we have no choice but to wait hours for delayed flights to arrive, get bumped from our flights, spend extra money on hotels or car rentals after paying for worthless airline tickets. If we fully privatize the airlines (read no government funding), they will be forced to focus on the needs and desires of their customers, or they will go out of business.

In this solution we will likely see a number of big-name carriers go out of business, air travel may (in the worst-case scenario) be restricted by price to the wealthy for a time, until carriers can step in to fill the gaps and offer service for all price-points again. This solution, however, will guarantee a better flying experience, if not a very different one. Time, and the market, will result in good days for flying again.

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