Airline Merger: Potential Bad News for Many Travelers

After some months of hold-up and review, the Justice Department has OK’d the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. A lot of details have yet to be sorted out, but one thing is very clear: there will be a lot of fallout affecting the traveling public.

For one thing, expect to see air service drastically reduced or even eliminated at many smaller cities around the country … cities which are currently being served by those carriers.

Even major cities now linked by flights to and from New York or Washington, for example – cities like Raleigh or Nashville or Louisville – will almost surely see a reduction in the total number of those flights.

And to make matters worse, flights that remain are likely to be far less convenient: non-stops to be replaced by flights making one or even two stops. And perhaps even connecting flights.

This is not new: contraction of air service has been a trend for some time. Over the past ten years, airlines have cut out more than a quarter of their flights to and from many of the nation’s mid-sized airports. At the same time, fares have gone up an average of 12 percent.

In other words, a lot of Americans are already getting fewer flights that are less convenient, but cost more money. And, according to transportation experts, there will be more of the same as a result of this American-US Airways merger.

Do you suppose the anti-subsidy conservatives in Congress will see and understand what’s going on? Will they realize that more and better and faster passenger trains can effectively serve many or even most of the communities affected by the cutbacks in air service?  Will they look at the steadily increasing ridership on Amtrak trains and realize that Americans like trains and want more of them?

We can hope. We can also knock on their doors and tell ‘em. And if they don’t or won’t listen, we can vote them out!