As I write this, I’m killing time at the Rick Husband Airport in Amarillo. I’m flying to Dallas, then driving to Shreveport, to visit my Dad. Astute readers might ask, “why don’t you just fly to Shreveport?” And that, as they say, is the rub…
I grew up in Shreveport. For the geographically-challenged, it’s in the NW corner of Louisiana. It’s also 180 miles due East from Big-D. Drive the speed limit (?) and you can get from Dallas to Shreveport in 3 hours. (Your results may vary.) The flight takes maybe 30 minutes. So why drive? Simple. Unless you wanna pay a king’s ransom, you can’t get there from here, at least in the air.
You see, it’s a little-known fact that there is a little collusion between airports and airlines – more specifically, between the cities that own the airports and the airlines. You see, airports have gates that they lease (for a pretty penny) to airlines. Fair enough. But airlines don’t like competition. “All your gates are belong to us” is their preferred way of doing business. Shreveport is served by American and Delta, among others. It is NOT served by Southwest – the airline that brought price competition to the previously well-insulated airline industry. No Southwest, no reason to be competitive.
Some years ago, I flew from DFW to LA. It occurred to me that I could rebook my return ticket to fly to Shreveport, then fly back to Dallas, to make a brief trip to the ol’ homestead. Nope. The additional cost of adding the Shreveport leg? A cool $1,000. And that’s for peasant class – not biz. Not first class.
I’d love to fly all the way from here to Shreveport. You can do it, of course. On American’s little puddle-jumpers (oops. Sorry…”American Eagle”). No thanks. It’s expensive AND cramped. And at 6’4″, leg room and headroom are no small considerations.
So why won’t Southwest play in Shreveport? They can’t. The other airlines don’t want the competition, and they’ve told Shreveport that if Southwest comes in, they’ll leave. Nothing like having an economic gun to your head to keep a little competition out, eh? Of course, if you let free market capitalism do it’s thing, Southwest would come in, the other guys would lower their prices and either make money or fold their tents, but Shreveport would still be served by air service. Allow the airlines to game the system, and you have a recipe for high prices and reduced service.
So I’m flying to Dallas (on Southwest, natch), renting a car and driving to and from Shreveport. It’s not bad. I love Dallas, and this gives me a chance to work in an overnight, where I can enjoy catching up with friends, visiting some music and computer stores, and making a pilgrimadge to Sam Moon for my fashion-obsessed daughter. But I can’t help but think how much better Shreveport would be, if only they would tell American and Delta to take a flying leap and welcome Southwest into Shreveport. Until they do, I’m flying Southwest to Dallas, and taking the land yacht express to Shreveport.