CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's senior senator is worried that the proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways could reduce competition and increase ticket prices for consumers.
"We will review the proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways very closely. Industry consolidation has created stronger and more financially viable airlines, which are necessary for our country's long-term economic growth." Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said in a statement on Thursday.
"But it has also resulted in fewer choices for consumers, higher air fares, and reduced air service to small and medium sized communities. Any further airline merger must be carefully evaluated to make sure it is in the best interest of the traveling public by creating more competition, more options, and lower fares," Rockefeller, a Democrat, said.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a suit on Tuesday to block the proposed airline merger.
The Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit that seeks to give consumers a voice in transportation issues, praised the U.S. Department of Justice for filing the suit.
CTA has opposed the merger since it was announced in February, arguing it would offer consumers no new benefits or flight destinations, and would impose higher airfares and fees.
If the merger goes through, the new company would become the nation's largest air carrier.
A Government Accountability Office review released on June 19, said the merger would reduce competition on more than 1,600 airline routes, used by more than 53 million passengers annually.
That would be a greater loss in competition, the GAO report states, than the loss created by the merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines in 2010.
"The last decade has seen the U.S. airline industry go through a dramatic restructuring." Rockefeller said, during a June 19, hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security. "Today, we examine the latest chapter in this story -- the proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways into the nation's largest airline."
"Consolidation was a necessary evil -- no industry sector could sustain year after year of multi-billion dollar losses. Although more carriers often meant more options for travelers, a weak and unstable industry was bad for our economy, our communities, passengers, and airline employees," Rockefeller said.
The key question raised by the pending merger, Rockefeller said, was "whether this latest, and perhaps final, round of consolidation will bring the long sought stability and the benefits that come with it -- or whether instead it will bring fewer choices and higher fares for consumers."
During the hearing, Rockefeller discussed the negative aspects of airline mergers.
"No one knows this better than airline employees who have been battered by merger after merger. They have lost jobs, wages, benefits, and, in many cases, their pensions.
"Customer service has suffered. Routes have been cut to small and rural communities leaving them with fewer choices or worse -- no service at all.