AP Interview: FAA chief anticipates no return to old days of airline regulation

WASHINGTON_The head of the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday that financial problems among the nation's airlines will not tempt the government to emulate the European pattern of regulating airport access and restricting routes.

FAA administrator Marion Blakey said there are no lessons for the United States to be drawn from Europe, where airlines are in better financial health than U.S. carriers.

The European system is different, she said, and in the U.S. there is more demand and fiercer competition.

"I would not anticipate anything where we go back to the long arm of government setting up routes and, in effect, determining a lot of the economic course of the industry," Blakey said in an interview with The Associated Press.

She said she views the government's role as making sure the aviation system has enough capacity and efficiency so airlines can function smoothly.

The intense competition in the U.S. aviation market is a result of deregulation, which took place in 1978, she said.

"That level of competition has certainly brought on real problems for the upper tier," Blakey said, alluding to such traditional airlines as United, US Airways, Delta and Northwest. United and US Airways emerged from bankruptcy within the last year, and Delta and Northwest are now under bankruptcy protection.

Blakey predicted more airlines will merge and some aggressive low-cost startups will go out of business, as Independence Air did in January.

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