Break out the big bucks for air travel

Well, this is sure to stick in your craw.

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that we can expect high airfare prices to stick around for much of this decade. That is because the Federal Aviation Administration has announced that it is expecting that scenario to play out.

The reason?

More people are traveling while there are fewer and fewer airlines to fly on. In other words, Capt. Obvious here is telling you that all of these airline mergers have driven up the cost of flying for passengers because there is less competition than there was a decade ago.

Passenger traffic is actually expected to double in the next 20 years, according to the FAA. Chicago’s Midway Airport, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport are expected to see the biggest passenger traffic growth in the coming years, according to the agency.

It is expected that annual passenger traffic will hit the 1 billion passengers mark by 2024. By 2032, it is expected to increase to 1.2 billion travelers.

At the same time, the FAA said new, smaller airlines would have to open up at a rate of once every 10 months to keep up with the demand.

How many new airlines have you seen open up shop in the last decade? Not many, that’s for sure.

Just think of how many airlines have merged in the five years. Delta merged with Northwest; United literally united with Continental, and Southwest and AirTran are in the middle of a merger. And, those are just the ones that I can think of off the top of my head.

That’s six air lines that have consolidated themselves down to three airlines. Four of them entered mergers in some sort of modern-day, low- atmosphere space race to see who would be the world’s largest airline. It’s left us with just Delta (who I love for international flights, don’t get me wrong) and United.

But, is bigger really better?

Do I need Delta to be the world’s biggest airline to enjoy a flight on one of its planes? The answer is simply “No.” I just want a comfy seat, some movies to watch, drinks brought at regular intervals and hot food on my cross-Atlantic voyage.

And, I want it all at a reasonable, affordable price. That’s really not too much to ask for.

But, anyway, enough grumbling from me about higher air fare prices. I want to give you guys a heads up to look out for Saturday’s “Living” section. It should be a dream come true for those of you who enjoy reading this column.

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247 or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.