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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wrong move, wrong time

Now that Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines are merging, you can expect higher fares and fewer flights in and out of PDX. You can probably also kiss goodbye at least one of Portland's two serious international routes.

Coming up next, rumor has it, is a merger of Continental and United. More service cutbacks and higher fares. Do you think the Bushies will put a stop to that deal? Surely you jest.

Given the reduced air traffic that's coming, it might make sense for the Port of Portland to shelve its ridiculous plan to buy the Colwood golf course and turn it into a new runway that will bring the roar of jet engines over many northeast Portland neighborhoods that don't currently have to deal with constant airport noise. That's what the big smokescreen called "Airport Futures" and the "green, sustainable" blah-blah around it are all about. (Yeah, nothing says "sustainable" like an airport expansion.)

They might as well call it "Colwood Runway," but that would be too honest.

Anyway, you couldn't pick a worse time to expand PDX. "Airport Futures" deserves a quick trip to the recycling bin.

UPDATE, 9:44 p.m.: An alert reader points out that there are now three serious international routes out of PDX: Besides Tokyo and Frankfurt, Amsterdam was recently added. Two out of those three are on Northwest.

Comments (15)

Last I checked, PDX has 3 intercontinental routes. Luftansa to Frankfurt, and Northwest to both Amsterdam and Tokyo. International routes are supposed to be more profitable than domestic routes, and Delta has been shifting to focus more on international flying, so I'm not certain about seeing those flights go. Some of the Delta/NWA domestic hubs will probably go, so Cincinnati, Minneapolis, or Detroit flights may be in jeopardy.

I agree that airport expansion seems totally unnecessary. Most times when I'm there, the place seems deserted. This makes PDX a great and no hassle airport to fly into, but it's not like the planes are stacking up waiting for takeoff like at JFK or LAX. PDX has one more runway than Heathrow already!

The airline industry is about to go through a merger-mania. I wonder how many airlines will be left. End result, though, is that airline travel will no longer be accessible for everyone (kinda like it is for the rest of the world). Less flights + larger planes + expensive fuel = higher ticket prices = less "optional" travel (i.e. vacations, fly instead of drive).

Maybe this will help propel alternatives, such as rail travel, but that's a long shot. We sold our railways to industry long ago and have sabotaged passenger rail systems.

"Do you think the Bushies will put a stop to that deal?"

So what's their choice force these guys to stay in business and continue to lose money or merge them and have some hope that routes will be kept open if they are used.

Never met a monopoly they didn't like. It's working out so well with financial accounting, telecommunications, and banking, we might as well make air travel the same way. Two or three huge corporations, unregulated. Reagan's senile dreams work out so well in practice.

A concern with Portland international flights is the level of subsidy the Port of Portland gave to aquire these flghts.

Luftanza just had their 5 year anniversary of their nonstop PDX to Frankfurt service but we never got a bottom line report from the Port, or Governor Kulongoski who bragged about the anniversary in a whole page color add in the O.

My understanding is the Port waived landing fees and guaranteed seats to Luftanza (and the others) for these nonstop flights.

Suppose the subsidy is greater than all of the added business or tourism gains?

Would that surprise anyone?

So what's the problem with the Port telling us the rest of the story?

It's easy to complain about mergers and the lack of regulation and blame the federal government's twenty-year old policy. Perhaps the mergers are simply a result of the overexpansion of new airlines since deregulation and we're just letting the market correct itself?

What would your realistic solution be, go back to the pre-1980s and choice of only Delta, Pan Am, United, or TWA?

(This is a serious question, not a snarky one)

There were other many airlines pre-1980. You need to either check your history or stop lying.

Sometimes Wikipedia is actually useful...

"Airline deregulation is the process of removing entry and price restrictions on airlines affecting, in particular, the carriers permitted to serve specific routes. The term usually applies to the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. A new form of regulation has been developed to some extent to deal with problems such as the allocation of the limited number of slots available at airports.

Airline services were historically heavily regulated, in part because of concerns about monopoly and oligopoly arising from the fact that, historically, in most cases, only a small number of airlines provided direct flights between a given "city pair".

Airline deregulation began in the US in 1978. It was a part of a sweeping reduction in price and entry controls in United States transportation begun with initiatives in the Nixon Administration, carried out through the Ford and Carter Administrations, and followed up on in the 1980s.

Economists who have estimated the costs and benefits of airline deregulation have cited major gains in economy for consumers and productivity in the industry. Morrison and Winston estimated in excess of $15 billions per year after about ten years after the Act was passed."

Obviously, I have no idea if this article was originally written by an airline shill, but the market barriers to new competitors did exist. So there's your history. Having said that, if dereg isn't the solution, anyone have any better ideas?

The quality of service has certainly declined in that 30-year period. Now we're going back to monopoly pricing, but with the new "cattle car" approach to the customers. A fine long-term outcome, repeated across many sectors of the economy.

airline problems? looks like I picked a bad day to stop drinkin'.

Quality of service has gone down, but so have prices in real dollars.

We certainly don't want to go back to the days of the Civil Aeronautics Board micromanaging which airlines may serve which cities and for what prices. The old regime was essentially a government enforced monopoly. Sadly, the free market fundamentalists at the Bush DOJ will likely take things too far in the other direction by allowing too much combination to take place.

Old airplanes, lax safety oversight, small seats, bad food (but, on the upside, smaller quantities of it), full flights, obese passengers, flight delays and rising fares and surcharges. What's not to like?

looks like I picked a bad day to stop drinkin'.

Excuse me, stewardess, I speak Jive.

Small seats and obese passengers. I certainly have noticed that. But I have wondered are the seats really getting smaller or am I getting wider?

Greg C

PS. Or are the planes just getting more crowded. It seems to me lately that planes that aren't flying full suddenly run into "mechanical problems" or "bad weather" and don't fly.

I applaud any action by the airlines that increases the likelihood that I will not be stuck in a middle seat.

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