TEMPE — US Airways’ media day program is about to begin, but I wanted to share this non-US related interview by Loren Steffy from the Houston Chronicle:
Larry Kellner served me a cup of coffee with the aplomb of a veteran flight attendant, and then, a few moments later, served up a stunning comment about the airline industry.
“If the government wanted to re-regulate the business, I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” he said.
While he didn’t mean the wholesale regulation of yesteryear, it’s still a surprise coming from the chief executive of Continental Airlines, the nation’s fourth-largest carrier by traffic.
Thirty years ago, airline executives battled fiercely to preserve government control of routes and pricing. Former American Airlines chairman Bob Crandall, then a rising executive, declared profanely that deregulation would ruin the business.
Fast-forward to today, and Kellner, agrees, at least up to a point.
“What we’ve got today doesn’t work,” he said in an exclusive meeting with me and several Chronicle colleagues. “It isn’t creating a stable industry.”
Kellner isn’t calling for a return to the good old days when fares were so high most people took the bus. Airline deregulation has always been about price, and in that sense, it’s been a roaring success.
Where it has failed, though, is on the cost side. Most airlines today have a cost structure that’s changed little since deregulation, which impedes consistent profitability. . . .
Read the whole article. It’s a good reminder that corporations are not inimical to regulation of their industry as long as it protects their profits and limits new entrants (for example, banks have been fighting tooth and nail to keep non-bank companies like Wal-Mart from horning in on their business, lest competition trim margins). The leading opposition to airline deregulation came from established national airlines and labor unions. Deregulation was (and remains) a consumer-friendly reform.
(H/T: ATW Daily News)
UPDATE, later today. Perry Flint of Air Transport World asked US Airways CEO Doug Parker about Kellner’s remarks. Parker said he had not read what Kellner said but that he would “disagree” about the need for reregulation. Indeed, he said, “I would hate to see us start moving back in the other direction at this point. . . . We’re still in the process of getting ourselves through a very lengthy deregulation process.” As part of this, he wants to ditch airport perimeter rules at DCA and LGA and reduce “barriers to investment.”