Letter: Is a free market for airlines just a pie in the sky?
The prospect of a tussle between Brussels and the airlines (“Brussels pressed to alter ‘ghost flight’ rules”, Report, 10 January) raises a fascinating question about deregulation and liberalisation: is airline activity really a free market service, or is it ultimately regulated by Brussels and Washington? In addition, the airport slot rule (“use it or lose it”), to which the story refers, testifies to the lack of coordination between the public and private sectors, so that they often operate at financial cross-currents. .
Our global aviation industry is made up of the “3 A’s” — airports, airspace and airlines. Only one of them—the airlines—enjoys a general degree of private commercial autonomy: the other two are, on world average, owned, controlled or operated by the state (some operating under license from government privatization) .
This seems to leave two choices: either deregulate airports and air traffic control to harmonize competition policy across the transport network, or re-regulate airlines into an integrated and coordinated public service transport system. Given the environmental objectives, these can be more effective, economically efficient and even more consumer-friendly.
There remain the so-called low-cost or discount carriers. As they generally duplicate what more traditional airlines provide (movement of people and cargo between two points using the same technological systems), their value proposition seems somewhat tenuous, if overall system efficiency is desired. The real structural alternatives – high-speed rail, digital telepresence or new electric air vehicle technology – are truer expressions of the economics of competition.
Matthew G Andersson
President, Indigo Aerospace
Chicago, Illinois, United States