The U.S. Department of Justice says its main motivation in trying to block merger of American Airlines and US Airways is fairness to the consumer. They believe a merger will send ticket prices soaring.
While we all appreciate this concern (but where was it when the mergers of Delta, Southwest and United went off without a hitch?), why not step it up? The government could be doing more right now and here are a few suggestions (and see more of my ideas in my latest weekly column for ABCNews.com).
Listen as Rick Seaney tells editor Anne McDermott what the U.S. could do to make us fall in love with flying again:
1. Lower ticket taxes and/or quit threatening to raise them
Did you know? About 25% of the cost of your round-trip connecting flight is purely taxes and fees, and this is distinct from those optional fees like what you pay to check a bag. The taxes and fees I’m talking about are built into the price of your airline ticket, and it’s really getting crazy. Enough’s enough.
2. Allow U.S. airlines to have majority-ownership by foreign investors
Blame this on a Pan Am-era policy that has long outlived its usefulness. Why? Because it hurts competition and lack of competition hurts consumers (something the DOJ acknowledged the in its recent anti-merger filing). Here’s the solution: Allow more start-ups to be funded by foreign investors, even to the point of majority ownership – which is currently illegal. Throw in an enlightened national oil policy (one that keeps prices around $70 a barrel – not easy, admittedly – but well worth trying) and we could have a truly competitive air travel landscape.
3. Knock down barriers to a better to air travel experience
So many barriers that need to be knocked down now. Among them:
Delayed flights: It’s past time to get NextGen up and running everywhere; it would have a significant (and positive) impact on the ongoing travel problem of delayed flights.
Security: Any airport that wants to hire its own screening force should be allowed to do so – with TSA oversight – that’s a given. Then, let’s drop the fee for travelers to register for TSA fast lanes, and get at least 50% of travelers registered for these. We need a speedier security system and we need it now.
Less waiting time: The days of breezing in and out of the airport ended forever on 9/11 but we could ease up just a bit with shorter required airport arrival times for bag-free, pre-screened short-haul flyers. Let’s give them a 20-minute window to check-in. Why sit around for an hour if there’s no reason for this?