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Time Magazine Takes on Aviation. Time Loses.

07/13/2010 01:41 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In a case of the pot calling the kettle black, journalism has taken on aviation in a remarkably ill-thought out article called 20 Reasons to Hate the Airlines. I read about this silly little piece of writing in Time from another aviation blog, Airline Nightmare.   So I find myself once again in the odd position of defending commercial air transportation, a business I do not hesitate to criticize when deserved, but which in this case has a gotten a bum rap from Time. 

Point 1 - Time says the hub and spoke system has created airline monopolies that keep the price of airline tickets high. In fact, since the end of airline regulation, airline ticket prices have consistently dropped.  Air travel has become more affordable as evidenced by the many hundreds-fold increase in the number of people who can afford to fly. What has become more expensive is the unrestricted airline ticket. Which takes us to point 2.

Point 2 (and 16) - Non refundable fares. Like anyone who has hosted an event, knowing in advance how many people to expect is crucial. Airlines are no different.  No-show passengers were great for those actually on the flight because there was more room in the overhead bins, and no one to fight with for the armrest. But flying empty seats was not so good for the airlines. It was wasteful; bad for business and bad for the environment. To discourage passengers from booking flights and then failing to show up at the gate, airlines started making no-shows pay. It worked. Now airlines are flying planes at 80-85% capacity.

Point 3 - People Express is dead. I'm not making this up. Time expects its readers to believe that low fares died with along with America's quirky People Express.  Look, I remember People Express. I flew with them. They introduced the concept of last minute ticket purchases and first-come-first-served seating and some other innovations we'll get to later. Great. Lots of carriers followed their example and are still doing it today; Hello Southwest, AirTran, Spirit... And they're making money too. To paraphrase an anonymous but apt cliche, "If People Express was so friggin' great, it wouldn't be so friggin' dead". (Note to People Express don't take this personally, I'm just trying to make a point here.)

Point 4 - The disappearance of legroom. Okay, they've got me here.