First of all, cabotage is a great word. Fun to say. Try it. I’ll wait. Hmm hmm hmm hmm. OK, you’re probably done. If you don’t know, cabotage is granting permission for a foreign airline to fly passengers to two cities within a 3rd country (ie, Air France would fly from Boston to New York—specifically, those passengers have paid to fly that leg, rather than just continuing on to Paris). [editor’s note: I’ll give a bit o’ credit to my brother for pointing out to me that this actually began with ships prior to the invention of airplanes. This is the end of esoteric trivia for the day, I promise.]
I bring this up because US Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said recently that the US government would not allow cabotage, preferring to protect domestic markets for US airlines (lot of good that’s done, eh?). The remarks were made in the context of open skies negotiations the US is having with Europe. The US would like greater access to European airports while trying to protect our own airports and airlines from foreign competition. While it may seem like a good thing to give our domestic carriers a boost (ahem), it would benefit all travelers to have greater competition in domestic markets. We see it all the time with low cost carriers; the same effect would be true when monopolized markets face competition from the likes of Lufthansa. This editorial has been brought to you by the editors of The Economist (kidding).
And finally, Southwest’s flight attendant union told the airline’s executives that they have reached an impasse in contract negotiations (they disagree over pay raises). It’s a long walk from Lubbock to Amarillo, so you west Texans better hope this thing gets resolved.