What's the Economic Effect of Less Flying?

Tyler Cowen chides me for refusing to fly short hops:

In relative terms it is the driving experience which has deteriorated, largely because of traffic congestion. Imagine what flying would be like if they were not allowed to charge you a proper price for the experience.

When it comes to airports, some high MU of money users will be better off as a result of TSA abuse; it will lower the price of flights. Personally, I'm happy to put up with the practices if it means less congestion in the airport security line.

Other readers have expressed the same belief, but is this the actual outcome?  Planes are flying at near-record capacity levels these days, which is why you so rarely find the seat next to you empty.  Since plane seats are presumably priced in some rough relationship to their average cost, more empty plane seats means that fewer passengers pick up the almost entirely fixed cost of flying the plane.  Eventually, flights might be cancelled, but this would mean a decline in convenience.  Nor would I necessarily expect shorter security lines, since airlines don't have to staff every possible scanner, and won't if the passenger traffic doesn't justify it.

Overall, my objection is a mixture of indignation, a family history of skin cancer (apparently most of the radiation is absorbed by the skin, unlike the cosmic rays that pervade the plane and for that matter, the earth), and the fact that flying is taking longer and longer and becoming more and more unpleasant.  With podcasts and audiobooks, a trip needs to be really long to justify going through the misery of the airport, the discomfort of cramming myself into an airline seat, and the annoyance of disembarking on the other side.

Driving in the northeast corridor with its bumper-to-bumper congestion would, of course, be considerably more annoying than flying.  But taking the train is a pleasant alternative to either; with a MiFi card, I can get work done more easily, and cheaply, than on a plane.

But I'm glad that my decision not to fly short hops will make someone happy . . . aside from me, of course.