Dear CO Lite,
Hear, hear. Low-fare carriers hold the oligopoly carriers accountable to the communities they serve. I truly believe that without Southwest, JetBlue, AirTran, et al., that the oligopoly carriers would restrict air travel to the small, steady stream of wealthy travelers who can afford gouge fares. Sure, Orlando and Las Vegas would be priced for vacations, but as for everybody else forget it.
The promise of deregulation--air travel for all--truly depends upon low-fare carriers. As you say, they have sterling safety records, they tend to be fun to fly, and offer jets to cities and routes that otherwise would be doomed to teeth-rattling props or nothing at all.
The story of how Big Air used the media to libel and defame low-fare carriers after the very anomalous Valujet crash in 1996 (which was caused by cargo, not the plane or pilots!) is a Pulitzer Prize waiting to be won.
My Thanksgiving trip home says it all. US wanted $500 for DCA-ROC, with two months' notice ("Sorry, sir, all two low-fare seats on the 150-seat aircraft are sold already"). So I'm driving 15 extra minutes to BWI, and flying Southwest to BUF for $118, and driving 65 miles to Rochester from there. Steve Wolf wants to subsidize his $123 million golden parachute on my grad student back. He can go shove that parachute where it won't fit well.
Need a new airline paint scheme? Better call Saul! (Bass that is)