Has Airline Consolidation Really Been a Boon For Travelers?

Flickr user HappyRelm

During a recent conversation with Charlie Rose, United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek spoke on the benefits of consolidation in the airline industry.

Smisek opines the corporations’ increased profits means greater investments in the airline’s fleets, including new planes and global WiFi.

“That costs a lot of money,” Smisek said. “And to do that, you’ve got to make money to be able to make those sorts of investments.”

A proposed merger between the bankrupt American Airlines and US Airways is currently under review by the Justice Department. Last month, antitrust lawyer Joseph Alioto filed suit seeking to block the merger, claiming consumers would be negatively impacted. Although attorneys for both airlines decried the suit as baseless, the Government Accountability Office reported that nearly 1,700 routes between would lose a competitor as a result of the merger, affecting more than 53 million passengers.

When United and Continental merged in 2010, competition was decreased across more than 1,100 routes, according to the GAO.

Just how many airlines have caught merger fever? Take a look at this list.

While consolidation has undoubtedly helped the airline’s bottom line, how has it affected the passengers? With fewer airlines vying for your business and fewer flights to and from your destinations, passengers are at the mercy of increasingly large monolithic airlines that, like major banking institutions, are rapidly becoming “too big to fail.”

William McGee, a travel expert with the non-profit Consumers Union (publishes Consumer Reports magazine) raised those and several other issues when testifying about in front of a US Senate Judiciary meeting regarding United’s merger with Continental. McGee testified the airline mergers meant loss of service for many cities, higher fares, reductions in service quality and the threat of widespread service disruptions.

Shocking Things The TSA Gets Away With


To many people, airport security is something of a necessary evil — a royal pain in the behind that they tolerate because ultimately, it’s designed to keep us safer. But a new study into the Transportation Security Administration raises questions about just how well the agency actually protects us. Airport screeners have been accused of everything from sleeping on the job to stealing and accepting bribes. And many are not really penalized for their actions.

An audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed some shocking behavior by TSA agents stationed at airports around the country. In several instances, agents were found sleeping while on duty. Other agents might as well have been asleep given that they allegedly let people pass through to the secure zone of the airport without actually going through the screening process.According to the report, the agency has processed 56 cases of theft by TSA agents over the past three years. That included one agent at Orlando Airport who confessed to swiping more than 80 laptops from passengers. (These neglected to make an appearance on the agency’s new Instagram feed of confiscated goods.) Other disciplinary issues involve things like “neglect of duty,” credit card abuse and even bribery. In one such case last year, TSA agents were accused of pocketing bribes from drug traffickers in Los Angeles.

TSA Agent asleep
TheeErin, Flickr

The number of allegations against TSA employees runs well into the thousands, but the GAO says few of the agents were adequately punished for their behavior. In some cases, TSA agents were disciplined by their superiors after very little investigation, while in others, agents guilty of misconduct barely received a slap on the wrist.

The findings of the audit are unfortunate for an agency already facing public scrutiny. Just recently, the TSA came under fire for telling a 15-year-old girl that her clothes were too revealing. They have also been criticized for racially profiling passengers, and aggressively screening young children.