NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Toward More Responsive Airline Systems

April 11, 2000

Airline passengers are becoming increasingly frustrated by flight delays, poorly functioning airports and checked-baggage snafus, some observers contend. Often the fault doesn't lie with the airlines themselves, but with government-operated services such as air traffic control and airport management.

Other countries have rid themselves of these problems and created better passenger service by privatizing these functions. Why, critics ask, doesn't the U.S. adopt the same policies?

  • Seventeen nations have commercialized their air traffic control systems and are reaping the benefits of technological innovations, reduced delays and lower costs.
  • For example, some have adopted "free flight" systems -- which rely on satellite-based navigation rather than the U.S. system of having pilots zigzag from one ground beacon to the next -- and other procedures, which enable airports to increase runway capacity by 40 percent.
  • Airports, which are now operating as public monopolies, should be privately managed -- to the end that services become oriented to the needs of travelers.
  • After privatization of London's Heathrow Airport, the management company dropped the term "passenger" and began talking about "customers" -- and it began benchmarking its performance against other airports to identify needed improvements.

Source: Lynn Scarlett (Reason Public Policy Institute), "Poor Airline Service? Blame Monopolies on the Ground OK'd by Government," Investor's Business Daily, April 11, 2000.


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