Open the Skies!

This is a 1971 Ford Pinto. It sucked hard. It was an engineering, styling and performance abomination with an exploding gas tank that killed hundreds. Look at the ugly thing.

It wasn’t just the Pinto that was an affront to all goodness in automobiles. In fact, pretty much all American cars of the 1970s sucked. They were badly engineered, ugly, short-lived, rusted out death traps. When was the last time you saw a Pinto, Gremlin, Maverick or Pacer on the road?

Not anymore. American cars are fine products today. The cheapest cars in 2017 are an order of magnitude better than a 1975 Cadillac Coup deVille.

What made American cars better? Technology for one thing. Another thing was that Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota, Datsun, BMW and Saab made American cars better. American car manufacturers faced increasing foreign competition in the 1980s and the result was that they got their acts together. We are all better for it… including American auto makers.

American cars don’t suck like they did in the 1970s but all is not well in the United States. Airlines in the United States offer a level of service that will have you wishing that, rather than flying, you were driving that 1971 Ford Pinto to Louisville.

Flying domestically in the United States is almost a guarantee that you will not get to your destination on time, that you will be treated like livestock and maybe even be dragged from the plane. The next time the thick ankled, matronly flight attendant announces that they “know you have a choice of airlines” laugh in her face. There is now just a “big three” and they offer a quality of service the big three auto makers offered circa 1975: Take it or leave it.

So, why can’t you buy a ticket from New York to Miami on Lufthansa? Why can’t you fly from LA to Honolulu on Japan Airlines? Two words: Trade Protectionism.

International airlines are forbidden from flying point-to-point destinations within the United States. They can originate international flights but not domestic flights. In other words, Lufthansa can fly you from Newark to Frankfurt Germany but not to Frankfort Kentucky. The laws stopping Lufthansa are meant to protect American consumers and jobs. As always, they end up with the opposite effect.

Drop the trade protectionism and foreign airline competition and capital investment in the United States would, in the same way competition improved the American auto industry, quickly improve passenger service, decrease fares, encourage new start-up airlines and relieve overcrowding. It would be a boon to the American economy and to air travel customers.

The United States should immediately begin negotiating an Open Skies policy and the deregulation of the international aviation industry in order to create a domestic free-market environment. Forced to compete with well established foreign airlines might cause United to rethink the way it treats paying customers and maybe ditch the Ford Pinto level of service.

Demand open skies and, in the meantime, enjoy your flight to O’Hare.

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38 Responses to Open the Skies!

  1. Uke says:

    Great point. I don’t fly enough to give it much thought, but it makes very much sense.

    Unfortunately, this bullshit United debacle is only going to (and has) increase the calls for more government regulation of our airlines. More turpentine, I guess.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      More turpentine for sure. Government regulation and oversight can do for airlines what it did for crime in South Chicago, water supplies in Detroit, public schools in Newark, health care with Obamacare and standards of living in Venezuela.

      • miforest says:

        The water supplies in Detroit is usually very good, you may be thinking of flint. their problem arose when they got off the Detroit water system. we are fortunate that our water comes from lake Huron , and requires very little chlorine to treat.

    • Ray Davies says:

      I take the train whenever I can. Plenty of room, relatively cheap, no baggage weight restriction, NO TSA. It takea a bit longer to go across the country, but not a helluva lot considering the delays. If you get a chance, fly Sun Country or Alaska Air out of MSP. They treat the customers right.

  2. R.D. Walker says:

    • Jim22 says:

      The Aeroflot ad shows the only two Vogue girls in Russia. The third came from Venezuela, I think. At least it doesn’t look like she has been eating regularly. The cockpit crew members fell in behind them. I remember Limbaugh saying one time, “I love the women’s movement – especially from behind”.

      I don’t know what to say about the Viet Nam air ad.

      • R.D. Walker says:

        Pumpkin told me her Aeroflot experience was that the flight attendants looked like supermodels. She flew from LA to Moscow and Moscow to LA.

        • Reg says:

          You guys know the difference between Aeroflot and the SCUD missile?

          Aeroflot has killed more people!

  3. miforest says:

    If our auto industry was fixed because it had to compete wit a superior Japanese product, how did this Japanese product become superior in the first place? Their market was totally protected from outside competition . The problem wit the theory was the Japanese could always sell here. we did not protect our market from the Japanese, they had been slowly moving into the market since the 1960s. Harley Davidson motorcycles of that era were know to be crap too, and Honda, Yamaha , and Kawasaki
    had been here for over a decade. In my industry , electrical distribution switchgear made in the 1970 is complete junk, for I still run a lot from the 1950’s and 60’s because it is built crazy good. Google Winchester collectables and ” PRE- 64″ . Winchester guns made before 1964 are generally worth twice what the same model from 1965 on is worth. most gunmakers quality went to crap in the late 60’s early 70’s.

    also , why were cars od the 40’s , 50’s and 60’s good but then they turned to junk?

    the answer is here.

    Manufacturers have only 2 ways to fight inflation, price increases and content devaluation i.e. cheapen the product.

    in the 1970’s inflation was so bad most products were victims of both. The re are a lot of reasons for the spike in inflation. but is was so severe that all manufacturers did a lot of cheapening.

    the US industry was not a quick to bring the quality back up once the 70’s were over because they were unionized , as so less flexible in implementing quality discipline. But the quality of everything , even Harley Davidsons , went back up once the inflation went back down.

    So go ahead, buy that F150, Harley, or Chevy Silverado with confidence.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      “If our auto industry was fixed because it had to compete wit a superior Japanese product, how did this Japanese product become superior in the first place?”

      That is 100 percent irrelevant. All that mattered to American consumers was that a Civic was a hell of a lot better product for the money than was a Chevette.

      • miforest says:

        No , that’s not true.
        The Civic you hold up as great quality was the product of a totally captive market. No free trade market there. The Japanese car market that produced it was completely closed to foreign cars.
        The point of my post was that all products made in the usa were good in the 50s and 60’s, and deteriorated in the 1970’s. Due to inflation driven cheapening Harleys, Winchesters, and chevys lost quality. Once profitability returned , quality did to.

        • R.D. Walker says:

          Why didn’t they raise prices with inflation like everybody else in the world? If there was inflation and they raised prices with the inflation rate, the problem wouldn’t exist. If they had to cut costs because of inflation, it means that didn’t raise prices and not raising prices in an inflationary market is identical in effect to lowering prices.

          You are basically saying that American automakers decided to make cheap junk at lower prices in the 1970s.

          • miforest says:

            “You are basically saying that American automakers decided to make cheap junk at lower prices in the 1970s.”
            they did raise prices , but as you do you hurt volume, so there limits as too how much price increase you customers can afford.
            The easiest way to “raise prices” is to try to reduce content. in a disasterous era of both inflation and recession, called ” Stagflation” . Desperate times call for desperate measures . all manufactures in that time period had to do as much price raising as the market would bear, then try to decontent to make it profitable , or at least limit the losses to a survivable level.

            I tried to make the point that it wasn’t just automakers. Harley davidson did the same , winchester did too. allis chalmers went from a worldwide manufacturing power making electrical equip,tractors and construction equip and even nuclear reactors to complete dissolution from the late 70’s to the early 90’s.

            japanese auto makers came into the
            because of this overall weakness.

            Th auto business survived,and were able to regain competitivness once the economy started improving and inflation fell in the late 80’s.

            inflation at 10-14% annually and gdp falling at -2 to -4% annually was the cause of the bad cars.
            Toyota and honda didn’t fix that. profitability allowed the improvements that fixed that.

            you are correct that lack of competition causes market distortion in the airline industry.
            The Hub and spoke type of airline system protects them from all competition , even domestic competition. it was enabled by the FAA .

            • R.D. Walker says:

              They didn’t raise the price of an Impala between 62 and 79. Not when you adjust for inflation. They lowered it… dramatically.

              American cars in the 70s sucked because American car manufacturers made cars that suck.

        • R.D. Walker says:

          In 1962 a new Chevy Impala 4-door sedan with a V8 went for $2,769.

          In 1979 a new Chevy Impala 4-door sedan with a V8 went for $5,471.

          According to the online inflation calculator, $2769 in 1962 was equal to $6,656 in 1979.

          That means an Impala cost a lot less (18% less) in 1979 than it cost in 1962.

          That would seem to support your argument that they chose to effectively lower prices and manufacture crap.

          That also supports my argument. American cars were crap in the 1970s.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      This thread is really about airlines, not cars.

  4. Bman says:

    Alaska Airlines is still a decent airlines. Unfortunately where I live in the frozen tundra, the only choice I have is Delta….and Allegiant if I want to fly to Phoenix or Vegas. Allegiant sucks ass btw.

  5. Trebor Snoyl says:

    Believe it or not, cars of the seventies are becoming collector vehicles.

  6. roger says:

    I owned for many years a 1973 pontiac grand am 4 door sedan it had a 455 engine and special order 4-speed manuel transmission and would pass every thing on the road except a service station and a repair shop! I also owned 1978 chevy nova 6 cylinder that got nearly a million miles as I drove it for a living. I also owned a 1978 mercury zephyr (mercury badge for ford fairmont) with a 351 windsor from holman and moody race engines and it to would pass very thing but a gas station and a repair shop as a guy and his girl found out in his corvette convertible when he tried to pass the old 4 door sedan econo box!

    • notamobster says:

      I’m proud of you Roger. You almost hit the target on this thread. Not quite, but at least there was mention of cars. Awesome.

      • miforest says:

        now you are making me jealous. I thought I was the main object of your ire.

        • notamobster says:

          You’re often on target, just wrong.

          Roger very rarely even come close to seeing the target, much less hitting a secondary theme. Thumbs up & a smiley face for him.

  7. C. L. says:

    American domestic airlines have become complacent and arrogant toward their customer base because the base is a captive audience. It reminds me of the telephone service when it was a monopoly – basically dependable, but no technological innovation for decades at a time, no competition, no incentive to expand service and lower prices, and a captive customer base.

    Maybe it’s time for a similar shake-up for the airlines.

  8. Dave J says:

    I wasnt aware how bad US carriers where until I did some overseas biz travel a few years ago and flew Brit, Luft and Nip. Wow what a difference. Decent food and friendly service.
    If I have to fly domestic, I usually book with Southwest. At least most of their stews. have a sense of humor.

  9. miforest says:

    who would have thunk it?

  10. Reg says:

    There is a woman down the street who drives an orange Pinto…. SCARY!