"Had the Essential Air Service program not been in place to replace discontinued air service, many communities over the last several years would have lost air service all together," said Rockefeller a major backer of EAS, which guarantees continued commercial air service to small communities across the country.
On Friday, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced it was ending its year-long campaign to organize aircraft mechanics and other personnel at American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
"The Teamsters Union has determined that the recent announcement that the federal government will fight the proposed merger between US Airways and American Airlines places the workers at American Airlines in significant turmoil," Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell said.
"American Airlines' emergence from bankruptcy has been cast into doubt and the union has determined that the continued conflict between labor organizations is not in the best interest of the workers. This is not a time for workers to fight among themselves."
More than 6,000 American Airlines employees had already signed cards supporting the Teamsters.
During the June hearing, Rockefeller also said, "The advantages of previous consolidations have not yet been passed on to consumers. They are facing higher fares, crowded and often smaller, less comfortable planes, and fees for every conceivable service.
"The industry has become profitable and devised new revenue sources, yet it still ranks at the bottom of customer satisfaction services."
Rockefeller also said recent airline mergers have not helped service to smaller, rural communities.
"In the past, I have supported previous airline consolidation because I thought it was necessary for the health of the industry," Rockefeller said.
The Justice Department approved three previous mergers: between Delta and Northwest, United and Continental, and Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways.
"I am still waiting, though, to see the lasting benefits of previous mergers," Rockefeller said.
"As we evaluate this proposed merger, we must make sure that the advantages of a strong aviation sector benefit more than just shareholders. They must benefit the passengers who deserve more choices and better service for the ticket prices they pay."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.