Fond Memories of Southwest Airlines

I flew Southwest Airlines from LAX to San Jose yesterday and the napkin I was handed with my drink brought back fond memories. From about 1973 on, after I took George Hilton’s class in transportation economics, I became an evangelist for deregulation of airlines. I used to have a bumper sticker on my briefcase that said:

Deregulate Air Transportation: Ground the CAB.

CAB, of course, stands for Civil Aeronautics Board.

When I argued for deregulation, Exhibit A was Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) in California and Exhibit B was Southwest Airlines in Texas. Both showed how competition would work to make fares lower for passengers.

When I was a summer intern in 1973 at the Council of Economic Advisers under Herb Stein, Herb made me an acting senior economist for the month or so between when Bob Tollison left and his replacement, Alan Pulsipher, arrived. I was attending meetings on airline deregulation with the Undersecretary of Transportation. Herb suggested after I reported on one of these meetings that we drop the issue because it seemed hopeless and our limited resources would be better used elsewhere. I argued that we should keep it up because it was using only a few hours of my week each week. I actually persuaded him. I still feel proud of that.

For more on airline deregulation, see Alfred E. Kahn, “Airline Deregulation” in David R. Henderson, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, 1st edition and Fred L. Smith, Jr. and Braden Cox, “Airline Deregulation” in David R. Henderson, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, 2nd edition.

Note: The link to Tollison has incorrect information. He was a senior economist from 1972 to 1973, not from 1971 to 1972.