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MORE FLIGHTS, MORE SCIENCE!

Sure, make fun of airplane travel. Every comedian from Bob Hope to Chris Rock has a riff. But deregulating airlines has been one of the smartest and bravest economic moves of the past 40 years. Consider: in the 1960s only one in five Americans had ever stepped onto a plane. Frank Sinatra sang Come Fly With Me, but very few took Frank up on his offer. Nowadays half of Americans take an annual round-trip flight. Why? Because airlines compete on pricing. Prices adjusted for inflation have dropped by half. Prior to 1978, the Civil Aeronautics Board set fares to guarantee a 12% return for airlines, even if they flew half full.

Amid our bellyaching about cramped seating and measly meals, sometimes the benefits of deregulation are not so obvious. An intriguing new study led by Christian Catalini at MIT shows that when Southwest Airlines enters a market and connects two airports near universities, scientific collaboration soars by 50%. And the scientists are more likely to explore novel, cross-disciplinary projects especially in laboratory work such as chemistry.


If we had not deregulated airlines, we would likely have fewer patents filed, fewer medicines devised, and fewer lives saved.

That’s no joke.

But here is an announcement I recently heard upon landing at JFK:

“As you exit the plane, please make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be collected and shared by flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”
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