How U.S. air travel can get (somewhat) back on track

(Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images.)

Dear Capitolists,

I have traveled a lot this year…a plot. And it hasn’t exactly been a fun experience (though of course I’m happy to trade the relative tranquility of air travel in 2021 for a more open, but chaotic 2022). Indeed, judging by the news and my own personal experiences, it’s like everyone in the United States has rescheduled their 2020-2021 personal and professional events for a 12-week period in 2022. Seriously, folks , it’s a bit crazy right now.

Either way, much of the chaos we’re seeing seems to be the usual pandemic story: most airlines closed routes and furloughed workers when the pandemic first hit, and they are all now struggling to resume more normal operations now that everyone is traveling again. , faster than expected by the airlines. This struggle seems particularly tough on the workers’ side, with people in the industry complaining of a lack of pilots, mechanical, air traffic controllersand so on, and it was exacerbated by the usual spring/summer weather disruptions and pandemic issues in supply chains and support services.

Put it all together, and you have a recipe for a bunch of low-key flight cancellations and overbooked replacements (which are bad enough), and broader, more systemic challenges facing the future of US air travel: fewer flights, fewer routes, higher fares, etc. But, like so many of the issues we’ve faced during the pandemic, those facing US air travel are not uniquely related to the pandemic. Instead, again, there is US policy – ​​in this case, air “cabotage” restrictions – likely making the situation worse.

You may recall that we already have discussed maritime cabotage laws, namely the Jones Act, the Foreign Dredge Act and the Passenger Vehicle Services Act, and the damage these protectionist laws inflict on the US economy. Well, unfortunately, we have similar restrictions for passenger and cargo air travel, and…surprise!– they cause similar problems.


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