The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Up in the Air

I was once a road-warrior, a person who traveled the country at least 50 percent of the month, almost always on airlines. During that time, air-traffic delays were common. Many years later, they're still common. Attempts by the federal government to improve our air traffic control system (ATCS), its technology, and its human efficiency have wasted billions and accomplished relatively little.

There is currently a suggestion before the congress to privatise the ATCS. The Dems, who have never seen a move toward privatization that they could agree to, are naturally against it. They cite too much corporate control and covertly worry that their beloved public sector unions might be impacted. The GOP is waffling.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal comment:
One overwrought objection was that the bill would be a big business giveaway to major airlines, which would have had four representatives on the governing board. The revised bill grants airlines one seat and adds representation for cargo and regional airlines, as well as airports. Robert Poole, the intellectual force behind the idea who supported the first version, calls the new bill a “big improvement.”

Another concern is that rural airports will be closed or harmed, though the bill maintains subsidies for remote areas, which is lamentable if a political reality. A Reason Foundation report details how FAA after the 2013 budget showdown put a moratorium on new contract towers that can benefit small airports, which will never beat out JFK or San Francisco International for FAA dollars. Under a new arrangement, rural airports could explore technology like remote towers, which allow controllers to manage operations with sophisticated cameras and communication equipment.

Many of these complaints come from the unprotected class of Americans known as corporate-jet passengers ... If the proletariat sitting in steerage pays for air services, so should a CEO flying across the country for lunch. The irony is that corporate-jet users are the least price-sensitive passengers and put a high value on time. Wouldn’t many executives happily pay extra for a faster landing and shorter lines on the tarmac?

... All of this will be litigated in the Senate if the bill passes the House, where proponents are whipping support. But in the upper chamber the idea is opposed by Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who wields a deciding vote on the committee that oversees transportation. Mr. Moran thinks he’s protecting his home state aviation lobby, though more efficient air space would benefit the entire industry.

Republicans should seize the moment because they have a President who wants reform as part of his infrastructure upgrade. Mr. Shuster is willing to negotiate, and the House has done the leg work. The biggest hurdle may be convincing appropriators to relinquish control over billions in air-travel tax revenue they now redistribute.
Privatization of the ATCS is long past due. Sure government oversight by the FAA for safety and quality can continue, but like the breakup of AT&T many years ago, privatization of the ATCS will lead to better technology, significant cost savings, and better service for beleaguered air travelers.