Bob Crandall: Blame deregulation for cramped airline seats

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"I think we'd be better off with some modicum of regulations that moderate the behavior of the industry," Bob Crandall said. At right is interviewer Holly Hegeman, publisher of the newsletter PlaneBusiness Banter.
"I think we'd be better off with some modicum of regulations that moderate the behavior of the industry," Bob Crandall said. At right is interviewer Holly Hegeman, publisher of the newsletter PlaneBusiness Banter. Photo Credit: Robert Silk

FORT WASHINGTON, Maryland -- The passage of 40 years hasn't changed the mind of former American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall -- he still thinks the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act was a mistake. 

Crandall, who led American from 1985 to 1998, said deregulation has given the flying public tight seats, high ticket prices in small markets, no commercial air service in some small communities, and long lines at airports overwhelmed by explosive traffic growth.

"I think we'd be better off with some modicum of regulations that moderate the behavior of the industry," Crandall said during a Q&A at ARC Travel Connect, a conference held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. 

Crandall took dead aim at dense aircraft cabins, saying that while regulators haven't yet allowed carriers to install stand-up seats, they are allowing seats so tight that "you can't move your legs and arms."

He challenged industry executives to "pay some more attention to the reaction of your customers."

In another pointed remark, Crandall criticized airline codeshares, saying that they are a way for airlines to fool people into thinking they are flying on a carrier that they perceive as more reliable than the carrier they will actually fly. 

"I mean, codesharing is fraud, very simply," he said. "Codesharing says, I'm going to fly United from here to Warsaw. But United doesn't fly to Warsaw."

Crandall also called on the airline industry to continue a push to move air traffic control outside the auspices of the Federal Aviation Administration. The U.S., he said, is the only major country in the world that hasn't established a single-purpose air navigation service provider.  

"What we have today is so inefficient, it's unbelievable," Crandall said. 

Most of the airline industry backed an effort to privatize air traffic control. The effort failed this year, in part due to opposition from private aviation.

 

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