For all the criticism of capitalism in the wake of United’s disastrous overbooked flight, we must remember one important thing: banks, health-insurance companies, cable providers, and airlines are all heavily regulated by the federal government. And it’s those heavy regulations that hurt the consumer the most.
Capitalism is unpopular for four reasons: banks, health-insurance companies, cable providers, and airlines. These all have something in common.
Airlines are in the wringer this week, with United shaming itself in spectacular fashion: Having overbooked a flight and seated the passengers, the company found itself needing four seats—not for paying customers but for airline employees who needed to be moved to another airport. When they did not find any takers for their paltry travel-voucher offers, they simply dispatched armed men to the airplane to force paying customers off, in a now-famous case, literally dragging one of them away.
As I learned after waiting six hours for American Airlines to figure out how to get a flight crew to LaGuardia, airlines have an awful time of this, in spite of the fact that they — let’s focus on this fact, for a second — own airplanes. (Lots of them.) Not only do they have problems getting their workers to airports, they also have problems getting — perplexing though it is! — airplanes to airports. US Airways once canceled a flight of mine because the airplane we were supposed to be on was reassigned to another flight for which the company — which is an airline, with a large fleet of airplanes — had no available airplane.
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