Airline mergers could lead to fare “creep”

The Southwest/AirTran merger isn’t expected to push fares much higher. The disappearance of seats that comes with airline consolidation would make you think that prices are about to rise, as the fundamental commodity of the airline industry becomes increasingly scarce. But, we’re not close to that point yet, notes USA Today:

“We’re not at the tipping point,” says George Hobica, founder of “I don’t think fares will be impacted much until we have three legacy carriers and one discount carrier remaining.”

The number of seats, however, is shrinking across the airline industry. Since September 2007, the number of domestic seats available has fallen 10 percent.

According to Hobica, look for fares to “creep upward,” but not at a rate that will horrify customers, a position supported by Frank Werner, associate professor of finance at Fordham University. He tells USA Today: “Generally, airline mergers remove competition from the skies, leading to higher prices. This will happen in markets where the combined Southwest/AirTran will not have a dominant market share.”

[photo by SkilliShots via Flickr]