Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is That What “Free” Meant ?

Evidently the word “free” falls upon some nerve center in the brain with devastating effect. I know my wife falls for it on a regular basis. I always thought men were relatively immune to it. Foolish man.

U.S. weighs aiding airlines with air traffic upgrades

”Gerard Arpey, the chief executive of American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp told reporters on Tuesday at the FAA conference that American's cost alone for equipping its planes with satellite-based navigation upgrades would run from the tens to the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Arpey and other executives believe government should cover the basic costs to airlines of air traffic infrastructure, since, they say, it is in the national interest to maintain a seamless system for air travel. “

My, my, how the worm does turn. It seems like only yesterday that I was having to endure lectures about the “Free Markets” like I was still in grade school. “If the government would just get out of our the way....” Remember ? “Free Flight” was going to unleash the industry from the evil inefficiencies of the government. The airlines would make so much money if the government would just get out of their way.

I know. I know. It’s not their fault. Blame it on 9/11. Blame it on unions. Blame it on the economy. Everyone knows you can’t blame it on “free” enterprise because free enterprise is the end-all, be-all. I know because all that “free” programming on the TV tells me so.

You know, I actually don’t care whether the government buys the airlines the system or not. I, personally, would pay my share of the taxes if we can just drop the charade about government and business. The airlines (and the railroads, and the trucking industry, and the on-and-on-and-on...) are only in business because of the government. The government paid for the R&D that built the planes, the government built the airports, built the ATC system, built the market, etc., etc., etc. In return we got the best aviation system in the world. A lot of that success belongs to private industry.

And that’s my point. Working together, business and government have done some incredible things in these United States of America. They need each other. So, can we stop the fighting ? Can we stop the “Free Market” farce ? Can we go back to making money and paying taxes instead of screaming at each other ? Please ?

Regulate the airlines. Control the competition. Don’t eliminate competition. Just don’t let the blood-soaked feeding frenzy of deregulation continue to drag this industry down. Control it. Let the airlines go back to providing decent service, decent jobs and making decent profits.

Take a look at these two stories in the news:

Southwest Airlines' load factor soars in January

Continental Airlines Reports February 2010 Operational Performance

”Continental Airlines (NYSE: CAL) today reported a February consolidated (mainline plus regional) load factor of 77.7 percent, 5.2 points above the February 2009 consolidated load factor, and a mainline load factor of 78.1 percent, 5.2 points above the February 2009 mainline load factor.  Both February load factors were records for the month.

(Emphasis added)

Do you see the contrast between these headlines and the one we started with ? Record load factors vs. government handout ? If you can’t make money with a full airplane how do you make money ? If the industry hasn’t been able to make money in the last 32 years then when should we expect it to turn around ? Shouldn’t someone have gotten it right in 32 years ? (When Southwest makes money in the international market I’ll stop thinking of them as an exception.)

I don’t think we afford any more “Free”.

Don Brown
March 10, 2010

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