Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

The prospect of a distance between Brussels and the airlines (“Brussels pushes to change ‘ghost flight’ rules”, Report, 10 January) raises a fascinating question about deregulation and liberalization: is the airline business actually a free market service, or is it ultimately regulated by Brussels and Washington? Moreover, the airport slot rule (“use it or lose it”), to which the story refers, is proof of the lack of coordination between public and private sectors, so they often work with financial cross-cutting objectives.

Our global aviation sector consists of the “3 Axis” airports, airspace and airlines. Only one of these – airlines – has a widespread degree of private, commercial autonomy: the other two are, on a global average, either owned, controlled or operated by the government (some operate under state privatization license).

This seems to leave two choices: either deregulating airports and air traffic control to harmonize competition policies across the transport network, or re-regulating airlines into an integrated, coordinated public utilities transport system. Given environmental objectives, the latter can be more effective, economically efficient and even consumer-friendly.

This leaves the so-called low-cost, or discount carriers. Since they generally duplicate what more traditional airlines provide (moving people and cargo between two points using the same technology systems), their value proposition seems somewhat vague, if overall system efficiency is desired. Real structural alternatives – high speed rail, digital telecommuting, or new electric aircraft technology – are true expressions of competitive economics.

Matthew G Andersson
President, Indigo Aerospace
Chicago, IL, USA

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