Air travel can be a frustrating experience. Flight delays, lost luggage, bag fees, squished seating, crying babies, security lines — it’s enough to make your blood boil. And if the United Nations and the Obama administration move forward with the new regulations they’re proposing, the flying experience will become even more painful.
We’re talking about regulations meant to combat global warming. The U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization has proposed more stringent emissions standards — and what amounts to new fuel efficiency mandates — for airplanes delivered in 2028 and thereafter. The regulations would require 2028 airplanes to use four percent less fuel than planes delivered in 2015.
The Environmental Protection Agency is already moving to adopt these regulations. It first proposed them last June and expects to publish the final rule this July.
Mandated efficiency will artificially drive up the purchase price of new airplanes. That leaves airlines with four choices: a) raise ticket prices, b) buy fewer new planes over a longer period of time, c) free up money elsewhere in the operation or d) all of the above.
All of these options are bad for flyers. Deferred acquisition means customers ride in increasingly aging equipment. Saving money elsewhere means cutting jobs, which means worse customer service — longer waits at the ticket counter, longer waits at the baggage carousel, more flight delays as the maintenance demands of aging equipment mount.
The first question that should be asked of any proposed regulation is: Is this really necessary? In this case, it’s not.
The airline industry already has plenty of incentive to reduce fuel use. Fuel costs are one of the industry’s largest expenses, accounting for nearly 30 percent of its operating costs. Airlines are well aware of the benefits of lowering those costs; in fact, some are currently enjoying record profits because of low oil prices.
They’d like nothing better than to reduce their fuel costs even more — through improved fuel efficiency. It would boost their bottom lines and give them an edge against less efficient competitors.