Not that I ever doubted the outcome, but late Friday, we learned that Continental and United would be able to proceed with their merger without fear of getting sued by the Justice Department. Pending shareholder approval, the 2 airlines are headed towards an October wedding that will create the biggest airline on the planet.
Whether or not this is good for anyone is not for me to decide. Frankly, as long as I can fly from A to B with some level of certitude, and for a price that doesn’t exceed my mortgage payment, airlines can merge all they want. Of course, many do not agree with my sentiment. Notably, some members of Congress seem intent on waiving the re-regulation flag now that justice has reached the conclusion that there is no logical reason these companies should not be allowed to merge.
I love how the first words to be shouted by the anti-anything crowd when it comes to the airline industry is that “fares will rise.” Well boohoo. Is that a bad thing? Afterall, we are talking about an industry that hasn’t made money since the Wright Brothers first took off from Kitty Hawk. Fares will rise? I sure as hell hope so. Let me give you a little anecdotal evidence of why that’s not a bad thing. Way back in the stone ages, OK, 1984 or so….. my parents assembled the funding to buy your trusted blogger a roundtrip ticket from Raleigh, NC to Washington, DC. Cost: $188 dollars. (Yes, I’m an airline geek from way back to remember something like that) On the other hand, I just purchased a roundtrip ticket for a flight from Washington to Raleigh for travel in 2 weeks that cost….. wait for it…. $198 dollars. I’m no economist, but something tells me that in real dollars, that’s less than what my parents paid in 1984.
Don’t get me wrong. I can think of a long list of things that airlines do to travelers that should raise the shackles of Congress or anyone else. And you better believe, I love a cheap airfare as good as the next person. But raise the re-regulation flag because a merger may lead to increased airfares? Seriously, you’ve got to be kidding me? And yes, I have heard of Southwest Airlines, and their low fares…and profits. More on that later.