How Will Passengers Fare In Latest Airline Merger?
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's David Schaper reports from Chicago.
DAVID SCHAPER: Delta's merger with Northwest in 2008 helped set the stage for this deal. Here's Continental CEO Jeff Smisek at Monday's merger announcement.
JEFF SMISEK: This is a brutality competitive industry. What we're doing today is making ourselves more competitive on a global scale, as this entire industry has globalized. This is not a merger predicated on increasing fares.
AARON GELLMAN: Consolidation inevitably raises prices.
SCHAPER: Aaron Gellman is a transportation and management professor at Northwestern University.
GELLMAN: I don't see that this merger is in the public interest.
SCHAPER: Frances Coletta is a food industry consultant from the Chicago suburb of Wheaton.
FRANCES COLETTA: The plane's already full. Every plane that's on, there's not one seat left. I am not a happy camper. I'm concerned what it's going to mean to me, because I fly quite a bit.
BRUCE KRAMER: It's good and bad.
SCHAPER: Bruce Kramer is a salesman from Sterling, Illinois who says he flies on United almost every week.
KRAMER: It probably will help me get more flights from United, and it's - I like keeping my flights as much as possible to one airline because you get benefits as a frequent traveler.
SCHAPER: Captain Wendy Morse leads the United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association.
WENDY MORSE: You know, we've made sacrifices in the past. We've brought this day forward, and as a result of that, we certainly expect to share in the rewards.
SCHAPER: Other employee unions say they're working longer hours for less pay and have had their benefits cut, all to keep the airlines flying, especially at United. Unions of both airlines were in contract negotiations before the company started merger talks last month. Now the stakes are higher on both sides, but airline executives say they don't need union approval for the merger to close. They will need antitrust regulators and the Justice Department to sign off, though. And Brian Havel, an expert in aviation law at DePaul University in Chicago says that may be more difficult to get than when Delta and Northwest merged two years ago.
BRIAN HAVEL: There's going to be, from the Obama administration, a more vigorous enforcement policy than under the Bush administration.
SCHAPER: David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.
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