Tom Belden, a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a July 12 article, argues that the country’s airlines should be considered a “public good” and thus be subjected to regulation by the federal government for issues concerning customer service and pricing policies.
MIT Research Engineer and Aviation Consultant Bill Swelbar, in his blog post responding to that article, states that the airline industry is not a “public good.”
Quoting from Swelbar’s blog post:
“The airline industry does not fit the economist definition of a “public good”. But they do bring a lot of good to publics of all sizes. More taxes, fees and regulation will only ensure that communities will suffer a death by a thousand paper cuts because increased airline costs have to eventually mean fewer airports served.”
Both of these positions deserve consideration, and it is worth your time to read their stated positions. I will lean heavily to the side of Bill Swelbar on this issue.
All of us would agree that regulating safety and security in the aviation industry is good for both the industry and the traveling public. However, when it comes to regulating customer service, the federal government has gone too far.
I understand a “public good” definition when it comes to the electricity flowing to my house because I don’t have a choice about which electric company to use. I don’t see how that applies to airlines when the consumers do have a choice.
The consumer can choose which airline they fly with, or they can choose to not fly the airlines at all.
This country is fortunate to have one of the most developed road systems in the world and most of us can get in our automobiles and safely and quickly go anywhere in the country. In the densely populated areas of the country the developed rail systems provide an additional mass transit alternative to air travel. All these are options for travel if we don’t want to fly on a bad airline.
Social technology has provided an excellent vetting system for rewarding and punishing companies based on the markets perception of their service. Feedback is now instantaneous. Look at how social media savvy airlines like JetBlue use twitter to respond to customer service issues.
By having a choice, and allowing the free market to work it out, the good actors will be rewarded and the bad actors will be punished.
The free market will drive better airline customer service, and more efficient solutions to travel, not the government.
Last but not least, business and private aviation offers the choice for us to fly on our own schedule directly to the destination. With over 5,000 airports to choose from, the travelers get ten times more destination choices than they get with the airlines