Monday, June 11, 2007

Exceptionally enlightening piece from airline pilot Patrick Smith

This is a great piece by airline pilot Patrick Smith in Salon.

Over the past quarter-century, remarkably low ticket prices have encouraged an ever-increasing number of fliers, to the point where twice as many people now travel by air than did in 1980. Meeting that demand, you're tempted to think, would have been an easy matter of increasing capacity: Instead of flying a 200-seat 767 from New York to Los Angeles, make it a 747 instead, with 450 seats. But that's not how it happened. Indeed capacity has grown, but the trend has been toward smaller planes, not bigger ones -- and more of them, departing more often to more cities. As the number of fliers has doubled, so has the number of planes carrying them.

That means gridlock in airports.

Since most airlines are better off with lots of small planes serving a frequent schedule instead of fewer large planes serving a decent schedule, the result in inefficient gridlock in airports.

The solution? Not at all clear.

Other things of note from Mr. Smith's article:

Did you know that Chicago - New York is the nation's biggest domestic market for air travel? That probably means we need much better overnight rail service between the two cities to fix the gridlock problem at O'Hare and Midway and in LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark.

Frequency of flights sells tickets. Our Amtrak Illinois experience shows that applies to rail as well. If you run more service with a plane or a train, people will buy tickets from you more often.

Great article. Read the whole thing.


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