I am always quick to DVR new Frontlines as they come out. There have only been 2 news episodes since November, both within the past couple of weeks. Flying Cheap
was by far the better of the two.
One year after the deadliest domestic airline accident in seven years, "Frontline" investigates the crash of Continental 3407 in Buffalo, NY, and discovers a dramatically changed airline industry, where regional carriers now account for half of the nation's daily departures. The rise of the regionals and arrival of low-cost carriers have been a huge boon to consumers, and the industry insists that the skies remain safe. But many insiders are worried that now, 30 years after airline deregulation, the aviation system is being stretched beyond its capacity to deliver service that is both cheap and safe.
Watch it free along with related content here:
While I do believe that the actually air safety record for the few years prior to 3407 does speak for itself somewhat (~2 billion domestic passengers in a row with no deaths), it was certainly a worthwhile endeavor to pull the covers back on the regional contract carrier business and question the level of actual constructive oversight of this industry.
Seasoned air travelers expect to get a regional carrier flying in or out of small places like Santa Barbara or Topeka, but (and admittedly this is anecdotal) I am seeing their use from some pretty big airports as well recently. I have gotten an "express" carrier under contract on recent trips into O'Hare from St. Louis (admittedly a short flight) and Houston
just in the past 2 months.