There’s one element that particularly caught our eye, and that is market share. While DOJ points out that the New American, along with Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, would control some 80% of the available seat miles (a statistically correct figure), AA and US point out that in terms of domestic market share, Southwest Airlines, other LCCs plus Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines control 40% of all domestic passengers.
The Complaint’s focus on legacy airlines causes it to ignore the most meaningful competitive development in the airline industry since deregulation: the emergence of low cost carriers. Southwest, which in 1978 was an oddity limited to intrastate flying in Texas, is now the country’s largest domestic airline, carrying more passengers last year than any legacy carrier and more than US Airways and American combined. Other low cost carriers, including JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Virgin America, Sun Country, and Allegiant, are expanding at dramatic rates. These carriers, together with Southwest and regional competitors Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, now transport over 40% of all domestic passengers, and that share continues to grow. The demonstrable success of low cost carriers is a market driven response to consumer demand, but the Complaint inexplicably ignores their profound and permanent effect on industry competition.
In fact, Southwest has for many years carried more domestic passengers than any other airline–which begs the question, why didn’t DOJ block the Southwest-AirTran merger, which would only increase and consolidate this concentration?
The court should find for AA and US. This lawsuit is an embarrassment to DOJ for its political motivations, poor research and lack of understanding of the airline industry.