especially at CBS, always have been uncomfortable with airline
deregulation. On the February 29, 1992 CBS Evening News, for
example, correspondent Bob Schieffer asked, "Whatever happened to
all those airlines, large and small, that used to fly Americans
here, there, and everywhere? Fourteen years after deregulation, the
airline industry is in a tailspin."
The CBS assault on airline
deregulation continued on the October 28 CBS Evening News.
This time, instead of endangering large carriers, deregulation was
blamed for allowing them too much power. According to Dan Rather,
"Itís been 20 years now since airline deregulation began with much
fanfare and big promises that it would mean more competition, better
services, and lower fares. In some ways deregulation has succeeded.
But many people who fly are still asking, ĎWhat happened?í" In the
story that followed, correspondent Bob Orr admitted that "20 years
after the government allowed the airlines to set their own
schedules, routes, and prices, more Americans than ever are flying,
and after years of losses, big airlines are making big profits. With
deregulation, ticket prices on average have been cut by a third,
while the number of flights have doubled."
Now the problem with
deregulation, Orr reported, is that the big airlines no longer see
it as profitable to provide service to smaller cities: "Like other
small cities, Decatur [Illinois] lost out when airlines reassigned
their jets to more profitable markets, leaving behind small planes
and spotty service." Concluded Orr: "Twenty years into deregulation,
a select few big airlines, enriched and empowered by the free
market, have all the clout. Any calls for change will only be
embraced when thereís money to be made."
But is this really whatís
behind the spotty service outside major metropolitan areas? Not
according to Forbesí Howard Banks. In the November 30
Forbes, he points out that the airline pilotsí union has
negotiated "something called the scope clause," which "blocks any of
the majorsí associated regional carriers...from flying jets with
more than 70 seats." The pilots donít like these little jets because
"they are flown by pilots making much less money than big-jet
Banks reports that "such
aircraft could immensely expand the number of flights to and from
medium-sized airports that canít economically justify service by
737s and Airbus A320s. But the airlines canít make these little
planes pay if they have to staff them with pilots making big
salaries and benefits." According to Banks, "Common sense says that
no clause in a union contract can hold up the tide of economic
progress forever. But it can hold it up for a long time."
Skepticism toward unions,
however, is not something CBS viewers should expect to see anytime