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August 27, 2009


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I seem to recall even Dick Posner acknowleding that deregulation of airlines has been a disaster, and is closely related to the poor quality of domestic air travel with which we're all familiar now in the U.S. Am I missing something?

Roger Dennis

You certainly in my view are very much missing the big picture. Here is a balanced story of what happened.

Nothing unexpected..short term dislocations, long term huge gains. I don't believe Posner disagrees..r

Eric Fink

Does Judge Posner ever fly Coach?

Kidding aside, I'm not sure that essay supports the assertion of "long term huge gains." It does credit deregulation with reducing average fares by one-third between 1977 and 1992, and with an aggregate savings of $100 billion in ticket prices (not clear whether that's over the same time period). That seems very significant; but have those savings continued in the past 17 years?

Against the reduction in fares, it would be appropriate to offset the cost to consumers in reduced standards of service -- greater delays, longer travel time because of the increasing number of trips requiring one or more changes, and (very hard to quantify) a marked decline in the physical comfort of passenger aircraft (at just over 6'1" and not unusually fat for an American, I can barely squeeze myself into a typical Coach seat).

I suspect that someone has crunched these numbers in greater detail. This isn't at all my area of expertise, and I'm entirely prepared to believe that the benefits of deregulation to airline passengers have indeed been substantial. But I'd want to see a fuller picture before drawing any conclusions.

Roger Dennis

Eric--there is a huge literature on the topic, but your service complaints are not fully captured by the defenders of airline deregulation who primarily look to price and productivity measures..this is a typical debate across "cultures"

You might want to look at:

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