When Rising Airfare Turns Deadly

Travelers from around the world have felt the squeeze on their wallets as airfare continues to rise in the wake of the global economic crisis and increased fuel costs. It’s getting harder and harder to find cheap tickets, and people are getting frustrated.

But on a small island in the South Pacific, passengers are more than just annoyed at the skyrocketing prices. Rising airfare ignited riots that left four people dead in August.

USA Today reports that in the French territory of New Caledonia, an archipelgio in the South Pacific, violence erupted after a group of locals tried to break up a group of Air Caledonie users who were protesting the carrier’s recent fare hike.

For more than 10 days, several local airports on the islands had been blockaded as protesters complained that the price of local flights had become extortionate, reported The Guardian of London.

The protests are seemingly linked to wider discontent on the territory over the growing divide between the rich and the poor, according to The Guardian.

Although youth and alcohol might have played a role in the deaths, one journalist reported in a radio address that the territory’s president had said that the 20-somethings who died were drunk when the fight broke out, this episode serves as a disturbing reminder of how reliant today’s society has become on air travel.

Why All the Rage Over Airline Prices?

Residents of an island nation like this one, in particular, would be left to feel even more isolated from the rest of the world if they couldn’t afford to fly.

But even people in less far-flung locales need to travel more.

The modern economy has businesses outsourcing jobs to other countries, which necessitates more air travel. And while the internet can bring Paris or Hong Kong or New York to our fingertips, it really only whets the appetites of a growing population of people who feel that seeing the world is as important as learning to read.

And, more locally, as gas prices make traveling by car too costly, many business travelers turn to regional carriers to do their jobs more efficiently.

Evidence of how important air travel is to modern society can be seen on cable news. Every time there’s a natural disaster or major weather event, CNN and Fox News will inevitably air shots of people sleeping in airports or wearily waiting in long lines at airline ticket counters.

In April 2010, when a Volcano erupted in Iceland, forcing officials to close European airspace, thousands of flights were grounded stranding millions of passengers.

More recently, according to FlightAware.com, between 650,000 and 750,000 passengers were grounded when Hurricane Irene pounded the East Coast in August.

Across the globe, the poor and middle class are becoming increasingly frustrated by the ever-widening gap between the rich and the rest of us. Costly airfare is just one more pebble in the shoe of hardworking people who either need to travel to see family or just want to travel to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

If unemployment continues to hold steady at 9% and the economy doesn’t approve, chances are fewer people will take increasing costs in anything, be it gas, food or airfare – quietly.



Published: September 12, 2011