July 14 - The U.S. Big Three Airlines Want It Both Ways

Abandon mid-size airports and block new entry

The Associated Press today reported (http://btcnews.co/1JfYywQ) on the price airline passengers are now paying in fares and fees due to an industry consolidation that has resulted in competition among 9 major carriers a decade ago being reduced to 4 today, and a single airline controlling the majority of seats at 40 of the top 100 U.S. airports. In addition, the U.S. Big Three airlines - Delta, United and American - have reduced their presence, or abandoned altogether, hundreds of airports across the country. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether those airlines have been illegally coordinating their capacity growth on domestic, U.S. routes in an effort to maintain pricing leverage over consumers. Some 28 class action lawsuits have likewise recently been filed claiming the same illegal activity.

It is against this backdrop that the Big Three have been waging a war on U.S. Open Skies policy in general and Norwegian Air International and Gulf carriers, Etihad Airways, Emirates and Qatar Airways, in particular. These U.S. carriers have corrupted a U.S. Open Skies review and approval process that should have resulted in approval in weeks - in accordance with the EU-U.S. Open Skies agreement - of Norwegian Air International's application to fly to underserved U.S. airports.  Instead, the Big Three have politically held up the carrier's application for 16 months depriving consumers of new air service alternatives. Similarly, the Big Three have been waging a multi-million dollar campaign to block further Gulf carrier new entry into U.S. markets.

So, while the Big Three have deserted many mid-size community airports, and are under antitrust investigation for illegal coordination to keep fares high, they arrogantly fight hammer and tongs to prevent foreign airlines from providing commercial air services that they themselves refuse to offer. These airports and communities desperately need new foreign airline entry to replace lost Big Three services and to add new connectivity to underserved or unserved foreign destinations to create economic growth and job creation here at home.

Since the U.S. airline industry has been radically consolidated, the Big Three have acted aggressively to undermine price transparency, consumer protection and domestic and foreign new entry (http://btcnews.co/1dA6NLl). It is time that U.S. regulators connect the dots and take action to protect competition and the consumer from the Big Three's anti-competitive policies and enable communities to add travel and tourism-related jobs. This interference by airlines in the free market is harming Americans and is unacceptable.


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