Greg Lindsay's Blog

December 08, 2009  |  permalink

It’s 1998 All Over Again

So… the wholesale bankruptcy of the American airline industry has been deferred once more. Today’s Wall Street Journal article points out that a combination of fewer, fuller planes, fewer dirt-cheap tickets, and a raft of fees have stabilized domestic carriers’ finances. People who are down on aviation will point to the fact there are fewer seats aloft now than in 1998, but I’d rather dwell on the fact that ticket prices are also hovering around their pre-millennial level of $301. If they had kept pace with inflation, the average ticket would cost $417 today. In other words, the cost of flying continues to fall. And while that’s terrible for the airlines and their investors, that’s good for us.

There’s a counter-argument to be made that permanently depressed fares prevent airlines from upgrading their product, but then again, if United can scrape together enough cash to order 50 new widebodies from Airbus and Boeing (with options for presumably dozens more), than anyone can.

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Greg Lindsay is a generalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the chief communications officer at Climate Alpha, the senior fellow for applied research and foresight at NewCities, a senior fellow of MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, and a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Strategy Initiative.

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