Reactions were mixed when Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. announced April 14 that the two companies would combine to create a single global airline.
Delta stated that the new airline—called Delta—will benefit travelers by providing a greater choice of routes, competitive fares, and service to more cities than any other airline.
Travel industry experts are not sure the news is all good. They’re worried that one merger will lead to more mergers, to the detriment of the traveler. For example, U.S. News and World Report suggested that travelers would pay higher fares, experience more-crowded flights and less-than-ideal service, and have a harder time finding flights to large cities or through certain regions.
Delta’s CEO Richard Anderson and Northwest’s CEO Doug Steenland countered some of these ideas in a Wall Street Journal opinion article. Market forces and competition drive prices, they claimed, not mergers. Delta, for example, will still have competition from other airlines, especially discount airlines such as Southwest, AirTran, and JetBlue.
CBS News agreed withU.S. News and World Report that fares will go up due to high oil prices and the reduction in routes and flights that would be the inevitable result of a merger. Even the elimination of a small overlap in flights will affect prices, they say. Furthermore, any cutback in flights will lead to more crowds as passengers are packed into fewer planes.
U.S. News and World Report reminded readers that in 2005, when America West merged with US Airways, service problems, such as late arrivals and lost luggage, increased. Other mergers could cause the same drop in service—after all, uniting the systems of two distinct airlines is a complex undertaking.
While the CBS News and U.S. News and World Report articles expressed worries that merged airlines would cut back on hub airports and eliminate routes to smaller communities, Delta reported that it has no plans to reduce the number of hubs and stated that the merged airline would provide service to 140 small communities.
USA Today offered some consolation to worried travelers, stating that in time passengers will find ways to work around any problems, such as long delays and overcrowded flights, caused by airline mergers.