Why Flying Is Miserable by Ganesh Sitaraman (The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution) explains the history of U.S. commercial aviation in a concise 172 pages and proposes solutions for the mass cancellations, high fees, abysmal service, and the general discomfort incurred by travelers flying in the United States. In short, he believes, the problem is unfettered capitalism, and the solution is somewhere in the realm of regulated capitalism and socialism.
Sitaraman efficiently takes readers through 1938-1978, showing how decreasing regulation during that period worsened outcomes for travelers. Then the narrative shifts to how airlines became more like banks than transportation services, selling and trading in frequent-flyer miles. In his conclusion, Sitaraman makes the case to return to the U.S. tradition of regulated capitalism. Even readers with a limited understanding of economics will understand Sitaraman's well-constructed and thoughtfully explained case for more regulation in the industry and both national and publicly owned airline options.
An important book that expands beyond the title subject, Why Flying Is Miserable makes the case for more regulation in other areas of the economy as well. Sitaraman briefly discusses telecommunications, banking, and more in his intelligent conclusion. His call for additional regulation in those industries is brief but compelling, his argument strengthened by the fact that giant telecom companies are some of the least liked in the U.S.
Sitaraman's exploration is perfect for readers just beginning to question the costs and benefits of capitalism as well as those who are well-educated on the topic but looking for a deeper dive into the aviation industry. --Alyssa Parssinen, freelance reviewer and former bookseller