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A Conversation With Michael Levine



This message is based on Professor Havel's introductory and closing remarks at the interview of Professor Levine

I am pleased to welcome you to this website and to the webcast below. You can access this webcast either by streaming it from the server or by downloading it to your computer (using the pop-up "save as" button).

This program is the first event in the Institute's "Conversations with Aviation Leaders" oral history project on the airline industry. We hope eventually to cover all phases of the industry's history after the 1960s, which is where a prior Columbia University project ended some years ago, but we are beginning with the events, law, and public policy issues surrounding the emergence of U.S. deregulation in the 1970s.

We are delighted to have had two distinguished guests as interviewee and interlocutor respectively.

Our interviewee, Michael E. Levine, is without doubt the intellectual grandee of the birth of US airline deregulation. He is currently Distinguished Research Scholar at New York University School of Law.

Professor Levine has held academic positions at Yale Law School and Harvard Law School, and was previously Dean of the Yale School of Management and holder of two chaired professorships at that school. Prior to Yale he was a chaired professor at the University of Southern California Law Center where he began his academic career. While at USC he was also Henry R. Luce Professor of Law and Social Change in the Technological Society at the California Institute of Technology, and through those joint appointments he pioneered the interdisciplinary study of law and economics.

Professor Levine has looked at today's subject from an academic vantage point but also as an engaged player (an homme engagé, one might say) in both regulatory and industry roles. At the Civil Aeronautics Board he was successively a staff attorney in 1965, and later Director of the Bureau of Pricing and Domestic Aviation and General Director, International and Domestic Aviation, in the critical years of 1978 and 1979. He then joined Continental Airlines as its Executive Vice President for Marketing before becoming, in 1982, President and CEO of New York Air, one of the three largest low-cost new entrants that followed deregulation. In the 1990s he held executive-level marketing positions with Northwest Airlines.

In the interview, incidentally, Professor Levine recalls the distinctive snacks he introduced on New York Air (such as the "flying nosh," a fresh bagel with cream cheese brought to the passenger in a red glossy bag along with the New York Times). Indeed those were halcyon days.

In preparation for this interview we analyzed Professor Levine's extensive 40-year record of scholarship, beginning with his groundbreaking article, "Is Regulation Necessary? California Air Transportation and National Regulatory Policy," published in Volume 74 of the Yale Law Journal in 1965 while he was still a law student. This article in a sense launched the intellectual argument for deregulation. The questions posed in the interview broadly reflect the fruits of this analysis.

The interlocutor is Dorothy Robyn, Principal of the The Brattle Group consultancy in Washington DC. The Brattle Group, spearheaded by Ms. Robyn, authored a much-cited 2002 report on the economic effects of a US/EU Open Aviation Area.

Ms. Robyn holds a Ph.D and M.P.P. in public policy from Berkeley. Her doctoral dissertation and subsequent book ("Braking the Special Interests: Trucking Deregulation and the Politics of Policy Reform") focused on the process of trucking deregulation which ran almost in parallel with airline deregulation. Ms. Robyn has herself become a major intellectual force in extending the ideas of U.S. deregulation to the global airline industry. She, too, has had a varied and compelling career background. From 1993 to 2001 she was a senior economic adviser to President Bill Clinton and in that capacity her brief included responsibility for coordinating the Administration's policy on aviation. Prior to joining the Brattle Group in 2002 she was a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution.

The interview was attended by a number of distinguished guests including Peter Harbison, Executive Chairman of the Center for Asia-Pacific Aviation in Sydney, Australia, Vincent Power, Partner, A & L Goodbody, the leading antitrust and competition law practice in Dublin, Ireland, Aaron Gelman, former director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center, Matt Andersson, senior aviation consultant with Charles River Associates International, Karen Bertoli, Director of Communications, the Nolan Law Group, Chicago, Aaron Broaddus and Stephen B. Rudolph of CCH Wolters Kluwer (publishers of the CCH Aviation Law Reporter and CCH Issues in Aviation Law & Policy), Kenneth P. Quinn, Partner in Pillsbury Winthrop LLP, Washington, DC, Michael G. Whitaker, Vice President, International and Regulatory Affairs and International Alliances, United Airlines, and Professor Robert Gordon, Stanley G. Harris Professor of the Social Sciences at Northwestern University.

Working with Ms. Robyn, the Institute hopes that our next interviewee for "Conversations with Aviation Leaders" will be Alfred Kahn, the former Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, currently Professor Emeritus of Economics at Cornell University. One of the outcomes of this project will be a book to be published to mark the 30th anniversary of the U.S. airline deregulation statute which will occur in 2008.