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Airline Deregulation: Pros and Cons With BC-Decade-Airlines

December 11, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Since the nation’s airline industry was deregulated in October 1978, a debate has raged on the benefits and problems created by the move.

Among the main benefits, according to supporters and industry experts:

-A ″democratization″ of air travel, formerly the domain of relatively few Americans. The number of passengers on U.S. airlines jumped to around 455 million last year from 275 million in 1978. By the year 2000, that traffic is widely projected to surge to 800 million or 900 million people.

-With nine out of 10 air travelers flying on some sort of discount fare, the average price of a plane ticket dropped 21 percent from 1978 to 1988 with inflation taken into account, according to the Air Transport Association.

-A planeload of passengers takes off from an airport somewhere in the country on an average of every 4.8 seconds.

-Several studies of airline deregulation contend that travelers and the economy as a whole have benefited.

The downside:

-Growing complaints about the concentration of the industry around a few ″mega-carriers″ and about the dominance they wield in and out of some cities, and through links with commuter airlines to entire regions of the country.

-Unprecedented congestion at busy airports and in the skies surrounding them, with some airport planners resorting to high landing fees to keep out smaller aircraft.

-Concerns about aviation safety. Critics both in and out of the industry complain that the government is unable to keep up with traffic growth and industry fluctuations to assure a continuing high level of safety.

-Predictions of catastrophe and re-regulation of the industry unless airports are expanded, new airports are built and the air traffic control system is modernized.

-Complaints that airline service continues to deteriorate, especially in rural areas, while prices are allowed to soar unfairly high in some markets, especially between busy ″hub″ airports dominated by one or two airlines.

-A realization that the days of aviation entrepreneurs starting an airline from scratch and taking on the competition have long passed, the victim of the same ″mega-carriers.″

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