The devil in the details

Chester Ford, a second year MPP student at UCLA, explains why my idea about publishing missed-connection data along with on-time performance data probably wouldn’t work:

To get the information on how many connections are missed included in the delay database would require information on specific passengers. However, the agency charged with collecting the data is not allowed to collect or publish information on even the number of passengers, let alone specific passengers.

You may remember hearing about the Department of Homeland Security obtaining rosters of passengers, only to get in hot water later when it was revealed later that they had done so. The same laws come into play in this situation. The law only allows manifest information to be used in case of an

“aviation disaster.” There is an exception that allows DOT to request a

manifest “for a specified covered flight segment to ascertain the effectiveness

of the carrier’s [information collection] system,” but not for broader

data collection purposes.

It might be the case that if a passenger does not board

a flight, the aforementioned privacy provisions do not come into play, although there may be applicable laws elsewhere that do apply. The “Air Travel Consumer Report” (the report that finds its way into the newspapers) does include denied boardings. The only base left uncovered seems to be missed


However, requiring the airline to report for itself would be moot in

your case because United Airlines does not operate United Express. SkyWest Airlines operates the Denver-to-Bozeman route under the name and

livery of United Express. Requiring individual airlines to report for themselves

would meet some resistance, but that pales in comparison to the resistance

that would be generated by requiring one airline to be tattled on by

another. (The airline business may be cutthroat, but still shows its collusive nature every now and again.)

Service in vertical arrangements would be enhanced because the smaller carriers are very dependent on the protection that agreements with larger

>carriers provide. (See the dearth of small carriers that have ventured

out on their own like Independence Air.) However, the horizontal

arrangements (namely, codesharing) between majors that otherwise compete with each other are a different matter. As an example of a new perverse incentive that could be created, if Alaska did not deliver passengers in a sufficient timeframe of Northwest’s liking, then Northwest could report on Alaska, without regard to Alaska getting the passengers to the gate a reasonable (to the passengers) twenty minutes before pushback.

Having airlines report on each other creates new first-mover and retaliatory

measures which would not benefit the travelling public, as fare wars

and customer loyalty programs did in the past. The new measures and countermeasures made available could only decrease air network

connectivity and frequencies among city pairs by causing airlines to pull out of

codesharing arrangements. The second-order effect is that prices would increase because there would be more market concentration. With the horizontal arrangements, the status quo is possible, but aside from information for the sake of information, there is little potential benefit to the travelling public.

Of course, with the shrinking number of traditional powers — Eastern, Piedmont, TWA, Pan-Am, et al, all absorbed — and Southwest-ization of air travel, it is uncertain whether the codeshare arrangments among majors actually would fall apart. There are fewer players now, and the traditional majors need to keep fares down to avert as much loss of market share to low-fare carriers as possible.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: