DOT Threatens Airlines with Rules if They Don't Shape Up
But Who is to Blame?
We’ve all read the headlines and heard the stories … airport delays, delays, cancelations, delays, etc. Many of you have experienced this firsthand. It’s a mess. These days, commercial airline travel is a dreaded, stressful experience. Besides the delays, you have the headache of dealing with the nonsensical rules of what you can bring onto the plane, the uncomfortable seats, the hit-or-miss irritability of the flight attendants, and worst of all, the TSA gropers rifling through your belongings.
Well, rest assured. The federal government is hearing your moans and is coming to the rescue to do something about it. Just kidding. There will be no rescue. But they’re certainly going to do something. So, watch out.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is giving the airlines a stern talking-to. The DOT is threatening airlines with rule changes if they don’t come up with an improvement plan on their own.1
“I’m giving them an opportunity right now. We can do more rule makings and even more enforcement,” US Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, stated.2
How sweet of him. Buttigieg called the travel disruptions “unacceptable.”
“The message to the airlines is that you’ve got to make it easier for passengers to understand their rights. And you’ve got to support passengers when they experience delays or cancellations.”
Yes, rights are important, Pete. Especially when people’s jobs are threatened if they don’t comply with federal Covid vaccine mandates. Especially when pilots’ jobs are threatened. Right, Pete?
“It’s part of a process to make sure that everyone in the federal workforce is safe,” Buttigieg said back in November of 2021. “All of us are ready to be done with this pandemic … Putting all that behind us means getting everybody vaccinated. That’s what these requirements are about.” … “I have seen no indication the vaccine requirements are going to impact travel in any way.” 3
Interesting take there, Mr. Transportation Secretary. Airlines are claiming they don’t have the number of pilots necessary to fly the planes. Now, that’s no excuse for booking flights without pilots (what the hell is that about?). But due to the difficulty in getting pilots, airlines are reducing capacity. And reduced capacity mixed with hike demand equals high ticket prices. Talk about kicking a man while he’s down.
United CEO Scott Kirby seems to think this isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon,
"The pilot shortage for the industry is real, and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren't enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years.”
But with flying in high demand, is there really a “shortage” of pilots? Shortages are caused by price controls, directly or indirectly. This “shortage” is artificial. There are plenty of would-be pilots out there. But the fiscal and regulatory barriers to entry make it seem like all the pilots just magically disappeared.
For Buttigieg to step into this situation as if the government didn’t have a hand in creating this mess is shameless, to say the least. The crisis can be traced to the Covid shutdowns, the associated silly pseudoscientific rules, the vaccine mandates, and the flood of funny money. All of this prompted a wave of early pilot retirements and a dip in pilot hiring, training and licensing.
Case in point: back on October 4, 2021, Southwest Airlines announced to its employees that the airline was required to comply with the federal mandate for employees to be fully vaccinated against Covid. Well, what do you know, the following weekend the airline was forced to cancel some 1,800 flights. Of course, the reason for the mass cancelations wasn't transparently communicated to the people. Southwest blamed the "weather," which apparently only affected Southwest planes.4 Purely coincidental, they say. But logic tells us otherwise.
Covid Hysteria Was Just the Catalyst
But really, the Covid hysteria was just the catalyst to a system destined for failure. John Stossel recently put out a great video which touched on the Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, the impacts of which are rearing their ugly heads right about now.
As with any tragic incident that happens in the world, a politician’s first reaction is always, “We must do something! We must write another law!” And so, it was. In 2009, Flight 3407 crashed into a house killing all 49 onboard plus the poor person in the house. “Pilot error” was the reported cause. So, Congress’ answer was to increase pilot training requirements 6-fold. Instead of 250 flight-time hours, now pilots would require 1,500. Never mind that the actual pilot who crashed the plane already had well over 1,500 hours of flight-time experience. But just because lack of flight time wasn’t the source of the error, doesn’t mean our esteemed Congress-critters didn’t have a logical reason for enacting such a law, right? Right?? Don’t ask logical questions, silly.
Ok, “so what?” you might say. What’s wrong with more required flight time? Well, for one, it now takes 6 times longer for a pilot to satisfy the requirements before being allowed to fly. It also COSTS 6 times more to get a pilot to this point. Who do you think pays for that? Talk about disincentive.
What about the pilot unions. Certainly, they’re a force for good, right? Absolutely not. The enemy of a union is labor competition. Legal and financial barriers to entry are a union’s wet dream. A union member’s wages are driven up by keeping out pesky competition, which also helps effectively guarantee a union member’s employment. Don’t let the young generation threaten the ol’ timers’ cushy jobs, amiright?
And all that funny money being injected into the system on steroids since 2020 … what does that have to do with it? Well monetary inflation begets price inflation. So not surprisingly, flight school tuition joins the climb to the moon. At ATP Flight School, the largest in the country, it costs close to $92,000 for a seven-month, full-time program to get initial licenses.5 You think new pilots see that as incentive?
More government intervention is not the solution. The government must look inward. Remove the barriers to entry, stop with the belligerent mandate nonsense, give up on the silly airport rules, end the monopoly of air traffic control under the Federal Aviation Agency, and stop destroying the currency for crying out loud.
Inflation ain’t helpin’. Arbitray rules ain’t helpin’. Mandates ain’t helpin’. Pete Buttigieg certainly ain’t helpin’ either.
For some perspective, contrast the 50 people dead from the 2009 plane crash to the number of automobile deaths in the US on government-managed roads. In just 2021 alone, 42,915 people died. What new arbitrary driving rules do you think our overlords have in store for us?
“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg.6
Uh oh. Don’t give ‘em any ideas.