February 22, 2018 | Kendall Creighton After last week’s announcement that WOW Air will “pause” its Miami service, it got us worrying about a few things – the first being a spike in airfares to and from MIA. Secondly, if WOW can’t make South Florida work as a low-cost leisure destination from Europe, then what route can they make work? The low-cost carrier from Iceland flies to several U.S. cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Boston, New York and Washington. Up until now we’ve seen only growth from WOW Air. The U.S. needs more domestic and international air service, not less. Over the past several years, airline mergers have left about 1,000 domestic routes without service, most of them between smaller cities, according to an analysis by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The good news is that there are new homegrown startups filling some of the voids among these smaller airports throughout the Midwest and Northeast, reports CNNMoney. These new airlines include: OneJet will operate more than 300 flights a week to and from Pittsburgh. JetSuite has been expanding to connect LA and the Bay Area from lesser used airports with refurbished, inexpensive 30-seat regional jets. FlyOtto, which FlyersRights has reported on, is reaching airports that don’t have commercial service at all. World Airways may be reborn to take on the big U.S. carriers on international flights, using Boeing 787s. Behind the plan is Ed Wegel, who briefly resurrected Eastern Air Lines. Some underserved cities that need more commercial air service: Branson, Mo. – gets thousands of visitors each year at a local theme park Central Illinois Airport – can serve many communities between STL and ORD Columbia, Mo. – home of the state’s major public university. Evansville, Ind. – the location of a major food manufacturer and university; can serve communities in nearby states Fort Smith, Ark. – accessible to a significant population in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma Greensboro, N.C. – a major population center with nearby universities Lake Charles, La. – near several chemical manufacturing companies in south central Louisiana Lincoln, Neb. – site of the state’s capitol, largest university and second largest population Rochester, Minn. – home of the Mayo Clinic, which serves more than a million U.S. and international patients a year Rockford, Ill. – the center of a major population area in northern Illinois Salisbury, Md. – would serve many communities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore Shreveport, La. – the location of an important university and manufacturing facilities Springfield, Mo. – could serve Branson, Mo., and is the location of a federal medical prison and university Bangor, Maine – Many readers have commented that this airport should expand. The cost to fly to Chicago is excessive and only offers non-stop flights during warm weather months. It’s a small airport with 6 gates. Cities with no commercial air service at all: Baraboo-Wisconsin Dells, Wis. – would serve major manufacturing facilities in northeast Wisconsin as well as thousands of vacationers Enid, Okla. – the location of a significant college and would serve north central Oklahoma Fond du Lac, Wis. – would serve central Wisconsin and several major manufacturing facilities in west central Wisconsin. Topeka, Kan. – the capital of Kansas Terre Haute, Ind. – the location of several major manufacturing companies in west central Indiana Yellowstone National Park – One of the biggest tourist attractions in the United States, Yellowstone lacks a nearby commercial airport. Best options are Salt Lake City or Billings, Mont., which are both around five hours away. You can fly into Jackson, Wyo., for a very high price. Increasing flights to a place like Bozeman, Mont., or Idaho Falls, Idaho, especially in the summer months could be very profitable. The Inspector General of the Department of Transportation in January launched an audit to examine the impact of airline consolidation on air service to small and medium cities. The U.S. is a huge market, with deteriorating customer service standards, owing to lack of competition. Could foreign-owned airlines revive competition in U.S. skies, and do something good for passengers like allowing non-U.S. airlines to operate domestic flights? The biggest four carriers in America now control 80 percent of the market, the Economist points out, compared with just 48 percent a decade ago. Warren Buffett, a man who knows an oligopoly when he sees one, bought nearly $10 billion worth of airline stock in 2016. What makes the airline industry different from the auto industry? Competition. Ford or GM would also have done much better without companies like Honda and Toyota coming into the U.S. market back in the 1970s. Of course, the automobiles we get now are much better because of competition. How the airlines became abusive cartels As we approach the one-year anniversary of United Airlines violently dragging off a passenger, Dr. Dao, there hasn’t been much reform in the system that rewards flyers for voluntarily giving up seats – even though Although some airlines have authorized payments of nearly $11,000 to entice passengers to give up seats on overbooked flights. But no refinement of voluntary market remedies will fix the deeper issues in the airline industry, as air travel is far from a free market. U.S. regulators should remove the cap on foreign ownership, take slots away from incumbent airlines and boost the use of secondary airports to aid new airline entrants. If that doesn’t yield dividends, regulators should consider breaking up the big airlines. Allowing competition to wither was a huge mistake. One silver lining is that Representative Dave Brat (R-Va.), has introduced H.R. 5000 which would repeal restrictions that hinder investment in U.S. airlines. Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights.org said, “Reforming or repealing laws and policies that prohibit foreign competition, inhibit new domestic airlines startups and expansion is essential to improving air travel for the 99% of Americans and businesses that depend on commercial air travel for long distance transportation. We look forward to Free to Fly’s introduction and enactment in the next year.” TSA Stalls on FlyersRights.org Petition to Ban Ammunition on Planes This month, the TSA set a new record – discovering 104 firearms in carry-on luggage over the span of a single week. Passengers cannot bring a gun or ammunition in carry-on luggage, unless the passenger is law enforcement. But TSA regulations do permit passengers to bring guns and ammunition in checked baggage, as long as TSA is notified ahead of time and the gun is packed in a separate container and unloaded. TSA’s rationale for allowing guns in checked bags? Passengers don’t have access to checked bags once onboard… so what could go wrong? There may be some logic to this when in the air. But allowing immediate access to both guns and ammunition in crowded baggage claim areas presents a proven threat to airline passengers – especially as they congregate in a space almost ideal for carrying out mass shootings. We already saw the vulnerability of busy airports in Fort Lauderdale, where, before police could respond, Esteban Santiago-Ruiz opened fire on passengers after deplaning, killing five people and injuring six within 70 seconds. We saw it in Brussels, where three coordinated suicide bombings wiped out 32 passengers and injured more than 300. And we saw it in Istanbul: 45 civilians killed and more than 230 injured by three gunmen who used automatic weapons and explosive belts to devastating effect. To protect passengers, FlyersRights.org submitted a petition to ban ammunition in the hold. Under the petition, gun-owning passengers could still travel with their guns in checked baggage, but would have to purchase ammunition for them after safely departing from crowded destination airports. Unfortunately, the TSA has yet to respond to our petition. Especially in light of recent events, the potential for mass shootings and the opportunity to take reasonable measures to prevent them loom large to Americans of all stripes. This includes airline passengers in enclosed public spaces, where they are perhaps most vulnerable to these attacks. We hope the TSA will better align its policies with the beliefs and fears of Americans and passengers, and take action to at least lower the chances that these tragedies repeat themselves.