Time to ground airline gouging

With its merger taking off, American Airline's swashbuckling PR slogan proclaimed: "Two great airlines, one great future."

With its merger taking off, American Airline’s swashbuckling PR slogan proclaimed: “Two great airlines, one great future.”

That wasn’t about its present attempt to merge with US Airways, but about its 2001 takeover of TWA. Since then, American’s honchos have relentlessly cut flights, jacked-up fees, fired thousands of excellent employees, turned flying into a misery – and plunged the high-flying corporation into bankruptcy. Some “great future!”

Enjoying Hightower? How about a weekly email that gives you the full scoop?

Now American wants to take the same route by hooking up with US Air, again proclaiming that the combination will be “great.” But – for whom? Not for passengers. In July, Consumer Reports magazine revealed that American and US Air were tied for ninth worst out of 11 big airlines in a survey of customer satisfaction. Two bad performers won’t add up to a good one.

Indeed, the combined entity looks to be so bad for the flying public that even the toothless antitrust “watchdogs” of the Justice Department are at least barking at this merger, having filed suit to block it. If the two join, only four giants would control nearly 90 percent of US flights.

Well, snap the oligopolists, that’s just how the free market works. Yeah – as in free to gouge! From its earliest days, this industry has been heavily subsidized and protected, and the last thing its bureaucratic profiteers want is actually having to compete with each other. They haven’t become giants by being agile competitors for customer loyalty, but by dividing up the market, colluding on price hikes, cutting amenities, and slashing service. Their only area of real competition is in the annual race to see which airline CEO gets the fattest paycheck.

If this merger goes through, get ready for the Big Four to merge into two, and then the two becomes one – all in the name of free market “competition.”

“Another Flighty Deal,” Austin American Statesman, August 18, 2013.

“American Airlines, US Airways Sued In Attempt To Block Merger,” www.huffingtonpost.com, July 2, 2013.

“Where does Justice suit leave American, US Airways?” www.usatoday.com, August 17, 2013.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

Never miss a word from Hightower– sign up today:

Send this to a friend