The Problem with Deregulated Monopolies

This week's City Pages cover story is all about how Northwest Airlines is looking to both outsource well-paid, highly skilled maintenance jobs and to strengthen its near-lock on Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. One of the questions posed in the story, "When Pigs Fly," is whether the airline can wring enough wage and benefit concessions from its workers to sputter into profitability. It's a huge question--the main reason we weren't able to spend a lot of ink exploring all of the possible answers.

Conveniently enough, this week Salon (which must have an aircraft-obsessed editor somewhere on its mast) has an essay on the failures of airline deregulation that's a) an easy read--even for folks born after the deregulation frenzy of the late '70s and early '80s; and b) the most cogent explanation we've seen to date of the anti-consumer monstrosity that is the hub-and-spoke system.

In addition, ticket prices fell faster in the two decades before deregulation began in 1978 than they did in the two decades afterward, [author and American Prospect editor Robert] Kuttner points out. Might ticket prices be even lower today if we had left regulation in place?

Read our story, and if you're angry enough to want more, check out Salon's.

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