|Above, United Airlines jets at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
There's an old saying:
You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip.Well, if there's an industry on this planet that can find a way to "squeeze blood out of a turnip," it is the airline industry.
Today, in order to fly from Point A to Point B, travelers are being gouged and nickel & dimed to death with an assortment of fees and a ticket-pricing system that is abusive.
Ken Rafferty, in an opinion piece in The Japan Times, feels that it is "time to rein in greedy airlines."
He wrote (in part):
OSAKA – Economic reform is surely a good thing for any self-respecting country seeking to provide jobs and opportunities for its people. Deregulation is often essential to get rid of tedious and tired rules and bureaucratic hang-ups (and bypass bureaucrats who play petty tyrant).
Capitalism — properly regulated — is a superior economic system to help achieve the best results from reforms. The market offers the acid test in helping to sort out sound and good ideas and projects from harebrained ones.
Unfortunately, when governments put these elements together they don’t add up. That is happening today in aviation, with increasing concentration of power in the hands of greedy oligopolistic airlines. Hundreds of millions of airline passengers are facing unnecessary turbulence as airlines squeeze as much money as possible from them, and governments look away rather than see that passengers get a fair deal.
Airlines have become adept at slicing and dicing, charging for checked luggage, sometimes for carryon luggage, for seat selection, for letting children sit next to their parents, for boarding early, food and drink, for blankets and pillows on some airlines, for any changes to flights. Airline ancillary revenue, so coyly called, came to almost $50 billion last year, and is rising with each money-grabbing new wheeze.I am as big a supporter of the free market system as you can find, but even I can see when greed and abuse comes before customer service, common sense and decency. That is when I see the need for some regulation.
My first flight to Japan in 2001 only cost me $550 plus tax. Now that amount has skyrocketed due to the addition of the "fuel surcharge" which will often double (or more) the cost of a plane ticket. Some airlines (such as Singapore Air are reducing their "fuel surcharge" due to the worldwide drop in oil prices. I haven't yet heard of any announcement of lowering of the "fuel surcharge" by any U.S. airline. Surprise!
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