Friday, 3 April 2020

A haircut for the airlines industries?

It's a sign of the times when I put Malthus into Google just to refresh memory the first dozen  entries were about a contemporary  singer or entertainer.  However, adding Thomas R produced the following summary of his theory:

Populations [have] a tendency to grow until the lower class suffered hardship, want and greater susceptibility to famine and disease, a view that is sometimes referred to as a Malthusian catastrophe.

Doubtless some of the more hard-hearted population pessimists  will take satisfaction in the likelihood that the present pandemic will diminish the world population mainly in the lower part of the triangle of wealth distribution.

Be that as it may, I think Malthusian doctrine has considerable relevance to the airlines industries. 

 Most airlines are begging their governments for financial rescue packages, and it is right that governments should respond - on the condition should be that, post crisis, the airline  industry should be considerably smaller. 

Whether that is achieved by letting some airlines go out of business, or requiring all airlines to take a haircut is a matter for negotiations.

For some time it has been obvious, becasue of the industry's contribution to the the climate crisis, that this outcome is desirable anyway.  Not only do we need a much smaller industry, but there is no case for the expansion of Heathrow, Leeds-Bradford, or any other airport.

The overwhelming bulk of aircraft travel,  certainly from the UK and other developed countries, is for tourism, leisure and pleasure. 

With modern distance communication facilities there is very little need for business travel.  A few people need to travel for work and some to maintain family connections.  But, now we know what we know, there is no justification for  the present vast industry to be maintained at its present size just to facilitate the fancies of we wealthy for sunshine, exotic experiences or sex. 

The second reason that has now emerged is that when the causes of spread of the coronavirus are analysed it is pretty certain that international air travel will be found to have been a major contributor (perhaps along with cruises - that industry will probably need to take a haircut as well)

So in this context Malthus has turned out to be right.  Nature is telling us something, and we should listen.


  1. To the contrary, I'm pretty sure that once it's safe to travel again the tourism, travel and aviation sectors are going to have a few bumper years like they've never seen. Not only is a global population that's been cooped up for months on end going to be desperate for travel, everyone who's ever wanted to visit somewhere but put it off to the future is going to carpe the Hell out of the diem.

  2. Most airlines should fall extremely far down the list for any taxpayer support. The only exceptions might be small regional airlines providing essential services to remote places - e.g. Lognair's flights to/from various Scottish islands.

    1. Certainly demand may well be high, but supply should be severely restricted if we are to behave sensibly. The exceptions you cite are among the few with a strong case for support if necessary.

    2. Certainly demand may well be high, but supply should be severely restricted if we are to behave sensibly

      What a horrible attitude, that could only be enforced by totalitarian overruling of people's liberty. Fortunately it has no chance of being enacted.

    3. I'm sure there'll be a lot of selfish opposition but it's just one of the the restraints we need to exercise if we are to avoid frying the planet. Get real.

    4. Every totalitarian dictator thinks they are enslaving the population for their own good, because they are intelligent and understand that the common people are too stupid to be trusted with liberty.

      After all, if they were as smart as you they'd realise it was for their own good, wouldn't they? But they aren't, so they must be forced to comply.

      Fortunately I have faith that when this is over people will hold their liberties the more precious for the experience of having had to surrender them for a time, and react strongly against anyone who tries to tell them that they must be forced to 'exercise restraint'.