Many were shocked by recent images of a United Airlines passenger being pulled out of his seat by security personnel, one of whom smashed the man’s face into an armrest knocking him unconscious before dragging his limp body off the airplane. The ticketholder had been chosen “at random” to be thrown off the flight for the airline’s convenience. Some members of the public seem outraged that this is allowed to happen. Well, they should be.

This is just the latest installment in a series of insults to airline passengers that has been escalating ever since the airlines were deregulated. The federal government used to dictate fares and routes, so the airlines competed based only on the quality of their service. Passengers were treated well, fares were refundable and there was more choice than there is now. Not only has service suffered since deregulation, but the number of domestic airlines has greatly decreased. The idea that deregulation would increase passenger choice and quality of service through increased market competition proved to be a fallacy.

Folks who don’t like what they see on those United videos may not realize how easily and rapidly these problems could be remedied if the people demanded it. It is time for the airlines to once again be regulated as the public utilities that they are. No more overbooking. No more keeping a passenger’s money regardless of whether they flew. Congress can stop all this if the citizens demand it. When the citizens are silent congress hears only the large corporations and makes laws in their interest, not ours.

Alan Irwin