During a congressional hearing on Tuesday, lawmakers grilled airline executives on what is going on in their industry and ways they can change following several terrible events in recent weeks — people being dragged off planes, flight attendants and passengers getting into brawls, every single meal served on every single flight.
On Tuesday’s Late Night, Seth Meyers examined what 40 years of government deregulation has done to the airline industry, and it’s not pretty. Air travel was once exclusively for the wealthy and privileged, Meyers said, but after former President Jimmy Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, it removed government control of prices and routes, and tickets were no longer artificially high. This was good for travelers who didn’t have a lot of money and needed to get places fast, but the cheaper fares also made it so the airlines had to come up with ways to make up for lost income — the seats became smaller, for example, and the food became inedible or nonexistent. “Remember the Mile High Club?” Meyers asked. “There was a time where people actually wanted to have sex in an airplane bathroom.”
Experts say that now, companies don’t have any fear of repercussion, and Meyers agreed. “Let’s be honest,” he said. “The main reason airline travel is so awful is that we the customers are okay with it being awful, as long as the ticket prices are low enough. If there was an airline that offered $50 round-trip tickets to any destination in America as long as the pilot could open-hand slap one passenger of his choosing in the face, that airline would never have an empty seat.” The solution to out-of-control airlines will likely have to come from the government, Meyers said, but don’t expect anything soon; President Trump told U.S. airline executives he will “roll back burdensome regulations” and also promised to privatize air traffic control, and has already paused a proposal that would require more disclosure on passenger fees. Find out more about deregulation and how the skies became so unfriendly in the video below.