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Fares, Mergers and Cabotage in the US Airline Market Kenneth Button School of Public Policy George Mason University 6 th Annual Competition and Regulation.

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Presentation on theme: "Fares, Mergers and Cabotage in the US Airline Market Kenneth Button School of Public Policy George Mason University 6 th Annual Competition and Regulation."— Presentation transcript:

1 Fares, Mergers and Cabotage in the US Airline Market Kenneth Button School of Public Policy George Mason University 6 th Annual Competition and Regulation in Network Industries Conference Brussels, November 22, 2013


3 Who was Alfred Kahn Born in Paterson, New Jersey, on Oct. 17, 1917 Graduated NYU at 18, summa cum laude and first in his class. He earned his PhD in economics from Yale in 1942 after graduate study at NYU and the University of Missouri. Before World War II, he worked in Washington for the Brookings Institution and the antitrust division of the Justice Department. After serving in the army, he became Chairman of the Department of Economics at Ripon College. He moved to Cornell University in 1947, where he served as Chairman of the Department of Economics, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University and as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1974 he became chairman of the New York Public Service Commission, and later served as Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board (1977-1979), and Chairman of the Council on Wage and Price Stability through 1980. He served on many private boards, on commissions addressing regulated and deregulating industries such as electricity, telecommunications, and transportation. He maintained a long relationship with NERA Economic Consulting. Kahn died in Ithaca at the age of 93, on December 27, 2010




7 Kahns expectations


9 Kahns Rationale for Deregulation 1)Airlines were wasteful because they were not competing on price 2)The airlines had massive excess capacity and could not price discriminate to fill seats 3)Lack of competition kept fares high at a time of rising inflation First Measured Century Interview


11 Air transportation deregulation

12 Outcome of Deregulation More fare choices Lower average fares More direct and indirect services Considerable growth in low cost carriers Development of hub-and-spoke networks Increased use of air transportation Airlines sought to protect markets

13 The outcome If the Wright brothers were alive today Wilbur would have to fire Orville to reduce costs Herb Kelleher, Former President of Southwest Airlines, 1994

14 Fears/expectations/outcomes On entry of low cost carriers not fully anticipated – The pleasant surprise of the initial large scale entry – The rapid departure of many carriers and re-concentration of the industry – The growth of fortress hubs Misled by a misunderstanding of the importance of various economies of scale. On anti trust laws was disappointed – a lamentable failure of the administration to enforce the policies of anti-trust laws. On price discrimination did not follow logic of his own work – much of the price discrimination will disappear. Ignored his own belief that marginal costs are nearly zero in air transport and thus discrimination is a way to recover costs. Also that airlines have some monopoly; Kahn advocated price ceilings in monopoly markets.

15 Fears/expectations/outcomes On congestion the blame lies with the authorities – Partly due to the success of deregulation – The deprivation has, however, resulted also from major derelictions by government in terms of investment and pricing

16 Airlines are cash registers

17 Air transportation value chain Airlines (American/United/Delta/Southwest) Airframe manufactures (Boeing/Airbus) Air navigation service providers (FAA) Aero engines (GE/RR/Pratt-Whitney) Airports (Generally local monopolies) Global distribution systems (Amadeus/Galileo/Worldspan/Sabre) Computer travel agents (numerous) Fuel suppliers (numerous)

18 Thoughts on mergers and competition …competition from Southwest, JetBlue, or other airlines would not be sufficient to prevent the anticompetitive consequences of the merger…Southwest, the only major, non-network airline, and the other smaller carriers have networks and business models that differ significantly from the legacy airlines. US Department of Justice) BUT IT HAS BEEN THE UNCONVENTIONAL THAT HAS HELPED DRIVE DOWN FARES : 1.American Airlines in 1980s – Frequent flyer programs – Yield management – CRS systems – Two- tier pay structure 2.Southwest Airlines 1990s – Low cost carrier (Southwest Effect) 3.Ryanair 2000s – Super-low cost carrier – Serious unbundling

19 US airline operating margins

20 Accumulated losses of US airlines since

21 US airlines average domestic fares (1990 prices)

22 Cabotage … the government could actively attempt to make markets more competitive…above all by allowing foreign airlines to compete for domestic traffic either directly or by investing in American carriers. Alfred E. Kahn

23 Quasi-adjusted fares allowing for baggage and reservations change fees and frequent flyer awards

24 Adjusted fare comparisons Implicit comparisons have been made between 2009 fares and those in 2012, and clearly this would suggest significant rises in the adjusted fare. This, however, takes no account of fuels price fluctuations. Comparisons of 2008 and 2012 fares on the basis that fuel prices were roughly comparable in these years. Again a relatively large adjusted fare increase is seen. Comparisons of 2007 (or an earlier year) and 2012 that indicate a rise in the adjusted fare of nearly 13%, but this is set against an increase in fuel price over the period of 44%. Fuel prices being about a third or more of airline costs, would suggest that much, if not all of the rise, in the adjusted fare is due to higher operating costs

25 Jet-fuel prices (cent/gallons)

26 Domestic available seat miles (million)

27 Flights at selected airports

28 Load factors

29 Average distance domestic passenger (return flights in miles)

30 Why cabotage? New ideas – Different business models Large, foreign carriers – Ability to withstand the any predatory actions by incumbents Lower fares Services more attuned to where there have been withdrawals – Ryanairs average return journey is about 1000 miles

31 Web accessed fares June 16 th for return flights September 17 th to 20 th, 2013

32 Road maps to cabotage? Access to essential air services tendering – Routes are allocated separately – Services not suited to most foreign low cost carriers Access to hubs/routes abandoned by legacy carriers – Reregulation – agency needed to decide which routes for each type of carrier. – Deprives legacy hub users of services of formmeign carriers Investment in legacy carriers – Adds greater financial security but no real incentive for innovation Full access to US domestic market – Allows both competition with existing system and in-fill where routes have been abandoned.

33 .. and the very final thought: dont panic Ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress. Captain Eric Moody British Airways Announcement to passengers after flying through volcanic ash in a B-747

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