I said it during the Senate Aviation Subcommittee hearings on Capitol Hill and now the “new” America Airlines (AA) is proving me correct. The AA/US merger what’s-down-is-up and what’s-up is-down claim that cutting the number of network airlines from four to three would improve competition is now clearly seen as cynical bald-face misdirection. AA’s new line-up service from LaGuardia makes that clear as a bell.
The DOT decision, in terms of the airline world, is dramatic. It is turning back decades of precedent and taking back control of the air transportation grid that had been relinquished to the airlines over time.
Back last August Delta Air Lines and US Airways proposed trading their slots at New York LaGuardia and Washington Reagan like baseball cards. Delta wanted more NY slots and US Airways wanted more DC gates. Both were already powerhouses at the airports where they wanted more slots.
I watched the recent swapping of airline slots between Delta and USAirways and between AirTran and Continental. Once upon a time the airlines were howling when the FAA wanted to limit landing and take-off slots at La Guardia, Newark and JFK as a solution to overcrowding of the airspace. They claimed that Congress never explicitly gave the FAA the right to auction slots. Has Congress given the airlines explicit rights to sway federal assets? And what about the consumers?