Well, do we? Ironically enough, Kansas City got nice national press last month — in a Wall Street Journal story — for how its aviation department happily advertises that it doesn't have a hub. The reason: No dominant carrier means more competition and dramatically lower fares for its residents (don't we know?), along with less vulnerability to a single airline strike.

What about convenience? The Journal also reported that when Nashville lost its hub airline, it lost only one direct flight a day. Perhaps the tradeoff of ticket prices, vs. jobs and direct-flight convenience, should be given a little more thought.

It seems pretty clear that when TWA isn't the dominant carrier, where it doesn't boast a dramatic convenience advantage, it prices its service fairly and reasonably.

When it enjoys a near monopoly, the customers get yanked like a seat flotation cushion in a water landing.

None of this means that TWA's survival shouldn't matter to St. Louis — it clearly does — nor is it to suggest that the airline shouldn't try to get fair-market value for its seats. But must it be such an enthusiastic gouging?

With this kind of pricing disparity on the same airline seats — virtually punitive to people in the city that saved the airline — and with a response as arrogant as "you get what you pay for," you wonder what we ought to say the next time TWA needs a bailout.

Perhaps something about loyalty.

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