Economic Liberties and Vanderbilt Policy Accelerator Release Blueprint to Fix the Airline Industry

January 26, 2024 Press Release

Washington, D.C. — As alarming recent safety incidents shine a spotlight on the dangers of a deregulated airline industry—atop longstanding discontent with shrinking seat sizes, bogus fees, chronic delays and cancellations, and route closures—the American Economic Liberties Project and Vanderbilt Policy Accelerator today released a new report, “How to Fix Flying: A New Approach to Regulating the Airline Industry,” providing a comprehensive set of policy options to address the ongoing crisis.

“After nearly 50 years, it’s abundantly clear that airline deregulation has failed, and the time has come for a serious conversation about how to govern this critical industry that is so vital to the public’s interest and the nation’s economy and security,” said William J. McGee, Senior Fellow for Aviation and Travel at the American Economic Liberties Project. “This paper seeks to expand the universe of pragmatic ideas policymakers might consider, from easy-win reforms and merger crackdowns to major paradigm shifts in the way airlines, airports, and aircraft operate. Even as Americans’ frustration with ‘too big to care’ airlines reaches a breaking point, we must not lose sight of the power that Congress, the DOT, antitrust enforcers, and the FAA have to make airlines serve the common good.”

“The air transportation industry today suffers from serious problems—a lack of competition, cities losing service all across the country, boom-and-bust cycles that lead to bailouts and public support, serious safety issues, and drops in the quality of service from smaller seats to irritating added fees,” said Ganesh Sitaraman, the Director of the Vanderbilt Policy Accelerator and author of Why Flying is Miserable and How to Fix It. “Our paper offers a variety of solutions to these problems, from structural changes to ensure geographic access to important passenger protections. We don’t have to accept the way things are. Policymakers can fix flying.”

The paper offers prescriptions across four categories, detailing the regulatory authorities and legislative proposals that can be used to deliver each policy change. The first section outlines the path to a more resilient, competitive, and geographically accessible airline industry, through reforms that include facilitating greater access for smaller and low fare carriers. The second section contains proposals to create fairer and transparent pricing and points systems. The third section outlines policies to provide passenger rights protections and enhance safety, including the elimination of foreign maintenance outsourcing. Finally, the fourth section recommends enforcement and oversight changes, such as bolstering the DOT’s enforcement authority and empowering state attorneys general to oversee airlines.

Read the full paper, “How to Fix Flying: A New Approach to Regulating the Airline Industry.”

Learn more about Economic Liberties here.

Learn more about Vanderbilt Policy Accelerator here.


The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.