Re-Regulating the Airlines, Part VI

As we have seen, the problem with letting the “free market” reign in airlines is there is no free market. The government handles the slots, dictates ‘security,’ forces nonsensical inflight announcements and rules, and controls the air traffic control system.  
But, even if all of those were solved, there is still the central problem there is not enough capacity to handle all of the commercial flights.
There is a web site that lists virtually every airport construction project in the world. Take a few moments to look at the large number of foreign airports with giant construction projects.
Ft. Lauderdale International Airport is the fastest-growing in the United States.  Go to: http://www.airport-technology.com/projects/fort_laud/  and you will learn that there is an expansion program that started in 1997 and still isn’t complete.  Scroll down and you’ll see an expanded car rental facility, terminal refurbishment, new parking.  What you don’t
see is new runways!  Same is true at Newark, JFK, and all the other airports with chronic delays. One thunderstorm (and I have been at FLL when this has occurred) and the airport is suddenly backed up for hours. Not enough runways.
Even in locations where there is a consensus (i.e., a vote) to expand an airport, these days you are looking years of litigation to move forward. The environmentalists, the people on the take-off path (and, in some cases, the assumed take off path), etc., etc., will all sue. We have gotten to the point where you can add 5-years or so and millions of dollars in cost to any attempt to expand runways in number or length before the first concrete is even poured.
We have even destroyed one whole airport in recent years with no replacement. 
More and more aircraft with no new air traffic control resources and no new runways equals increasing delays. So, any airline that wants to complete on service can’t. Late flights will abound due to the many problems with not enough runways and not enough capacity in the air traffic control system.

In a re-regulatory system, it is time to restore Rule 240. Before 1979, Civil Aviation Board Rule 240 insured that airlines did everything they could to get you to your destination on time, including putting you on another airline (i.e., your flight on airline A has a major mechanical delay, so they put you on airline B). There was a system in place where the airlines compensated each other for carrying each others’ passengers. Given the huge delays often experienced these days, this is essential. 

And, speaking of delays, as I have previously stated, it is time to go back to the system that was in place before September 11th with private sector security along with metal detectors and x-rays.  The TSA’s “security theatre” and nude-machines (which cannot show items hidden in body cavities, including the mouth) are not the answer. What comes next? Having to say, “ah” (complete with tongue depressor) after the metal detector?! 
The risk of an incident, given a basic level of screening, is extremely low.  The number of people who would choose not to fly given the end of “security theatre” would be far less than the those who avoid flying because of the TSA now. The airlines are never going to be able to begin a solid recovery as long as the TSA continues on its present course of reacting to every incident. The passengers stopped the “underwear bomber” and they will in future incidents. I would put some of the TSA resources into better screening of checked bags but otherwise would dial it back to pre-September 11 levels.  

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