Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The merger: Bad news for travelers?

That's the buzz out in the bloggesphere. The proposed Delta - Northwest merger -- which will create the world's biggest carrier in terms of traffic -- will probably mean a cut in seats on some routes and decreased customer service, reported Travel Mole, an industry report, which wrote:

    The merger was viewed by airline consultant Mike Boggs as a logical one. But he added:

    “For consumers, any time they lose options, that’s not good. Any time competition goes away that’s not good,” Mr Boggs said.

    Skeptics who predicted service would not improve were easy to find. The biggest impact, according to critics, may be the severe toll the merger could take on customer service and competition in the airline industry.

Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott doubts the company spin that the new entity will result in "a stronger, more resilient airline that will be a leader in providing customer service and value.''

On his Today in the Sky blog, USA Today staffer Ben Mutzabaugh reports that a United / Continental merger may be just around the corner.

In these economic times, you have to figure that a merger might be better for consumers than a continuation of the airline shutdowns we saw in recent weeks, when Skybus, ATA and Aloha shut down, and Frontier filed for Chapter 11. But as frequent flier, I can't believe that service will improve.

Free market supporters may argue that the market will win out, but if it does, I'm sorry to suggest that consumers probably won't. If we had a true Open Skies with all airlines around the world competing equally, that might actually happen...but I'm not betting on it. The barriers to entry are simply too high, and some niche markets too small, for a pure "open market'' to yield the kind of service I'd like to see in the skies.

Part of the problem is us. Me. I want cheap fares. And so does most everyone else I know. But I also want reasonable service -- and with consolidation, it's ever-less likely. Which puts me in favor of a basic Airline Passenger Bill of Rights.

What about you? Vote at right or click to comment below.

1 comment:

Jake said...

I to look for cheap fares, however although what I believe to be cheap still leaves a huge hole in my pocket.