Rapid Descent: Deregulation and the Shakeout in the Airlines

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9780671760694: Rapid Descent: Deregulation and the Shakeout in the Airlines

Tracing the disastrous history of airline deregulation, two experienced airline industry reporters give an accessible and entertaining look at the complicated strategems, colorful personalities, and unfortunate decisions involved in deregulation.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A somber assessment of how US airlines have gotten along since their mid-1970s deregulation, by two trade journalists who fear the industry may be in for recurrent Sturm and Drang. In most important respects, Peterson and Glab conclude, the benefits expected to follow removal of federal controls have been no-shows. While new carriers emerged to vie with the old, they note, precious few mounted successful challenges, and a small flock of established enterprises (American, Delta, Northwest, United, et al.) still rules the domestic air-travel roost. Owing to ruinous fare/route rivalries, costly takeover battles, ill-advised mergers, adversarial labor relations, and allied woes, the authors point out that most of the survivors are flying on empty from a financial standpoint. In the meantime, generally lower ticket prices have greatly expanded the air-travel market, but new passengers and old find themselves herded through hub terminals ``that do to humans what postal sorting centers do to our mail.'' Peterson and Glab focus on the individuals who have played high-profile roles in commercial aviation's dramatic fall from grace. Cases in point range from Donald Burr (founder of People Express) through Robert Crandall (American's innovative albeit frustrated CEO), Carl Icahn (a Wall Street raider bloodied by his close encounters with TWA), and Frank Lorenzo (the sometime head of Continental, whose resourceful use of bankruptcy law earned him the enduring enmity of unions). The authors fault the US government for countenancing ``blatant cases of anti-competitive behavior,'' in particular those involving computer-based reservation systems and predatory pricing that helped ground fledgling carriers. Without advocating revival of CAB-like oversight, they leave no doubt that the public interest demands that laissez-faire's imperfect performance be addressed before the airlines embark on another self-destructive cycle. A consistently absorbing and informed briefing on the negative socioeconomic consequences that can accrue from the best of intentions. (16 pages of photos) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Travel reporters Peterson ( Travel Weekly ) and Glab (former managing editor of Travel Management Daily ) use their knowledge of and contacts in the airline industry to provide this account of what must be one of the most mismanaged operations in America. How else could one explain the fact that, according to the authors, U.S. airlines lost $6 billion in 1990 and 1991, a sum greater than the profits earned by the airlines since commercial aviation was launched in the 1920s. In examining how the industry got itself into such a mess, the authors argue that while deregulation put in motion the events that would shape the future of the airlines, myriad other factors played parts as well. The firing of the air traffic controllers during the Reagan administration, the downsizing of the Federal Aviation Administration and, most importantly, the merger and acquisition craze of the 1980s were some of the events that helped create a financially troubled industry. The book is enlivened by descriptions of the colorful men who ran and still run the airlines and although the authors identify no clear heroes, there are plenty of villains, most notably Frank Lorenzo and Carl Ichan who the authors suggest ruined Texas Air (comprised of such subsidiaries as Continental and Eastern Airlines) and TWA, respectively. Those who are interested in corporate wheeling and dealing will find this an enlightening and enjoyable read. Photos not seen by PW .
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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