Warren Says Southwest Airline Failures Show Need for Stronger Antitrust Law

As Southwest Airways undergoes a disaster, having canceled hundreds of flights over the previous few days, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is saying that lax antitrust enforcement over the previous many years is partially accountable for the issue.

On Tuesday, Warren stated on Twitter that airline mergers have been a “catastrophe” for customers and known as for regulators to give attention to growing competitors within the business.

“Consolidation within the airline business has been a catastrophe for People left with fewer selections and better costs. [Southwest]’s cancellations are the most recent instance,” she wrote. “[The Department of Transportation] ought to use its antitrust instruments to guard fliers, beginning with blocking the [JetBlue-Spirit Airlines] merger.”

Over the course of Monday and Tuesday, Southwest canceled over 5,000 flights, together with 60 p.c of its scheduled flights for Tuesday and Wednesday. Although all airways have struggled with the chilly temperatures that swept the U.S. this weekend, the Southwest cancellations make up a majority of all flight cancellations over the previous few days.

Southwest staff say that poor administration and refusal to replace techniques is accountable, and that the corporate has handled its staff poorly by way of the cancellations. “The way in which Southwest Airways has handled its flight crews can solely be termed ‘despicable,’” stated Lyn Montgomery, TWU Native 556, per CBS.

“We all know the calls for of vacation journey. We all know winter storms. And consider me, we find out about stepping up and placing in lengthy work hours after we are known as to take action; we’re flight attendants,” Montgomery continued. “However at this level, the numerous years of failure by administration, regardless of many unions’ calls for to modernize, has left flight attendants fatigued, stranded, hungry and chilly — on Christmas!”

Many customers had little alternative however to guide Southwest for his or her vacation journey; American Airways, Delta, United and Southwest make up 80 p.c of passenger air visitors within the States, thanks to mergers over the past decades which have left 4 main airline firms remaining.

Traditionally, such mergers have meant worse outcomes for passengers, with airways extra more likely to lose baggage as they endure a merger. A proposed merger between Spirit and JetBlue may imply even much less competitors within the airline business. If federal regulators permit the $7.6 billion deal that was proposed earlier this 12 months to undergo, it might create the fifth-largest airline within the U.S.

This might lead to increased prices for purchasers, consultants say, as Spirit’s usually low costs — to compensate for a worsened flying expertise — would go up because of the deal. And but, even as airlines jacked up prices this 12 months far greater than inflation charges and as airlines have carried out mass cancellations and shorted prospects of refunds, federal regulators have achieved little to rein within the business to guard vacationers.

Warren has beforehand urged the Division of Transportation to dam the Spirit-JetBlue deal. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in September, Warren stated that the company ought to block the deal within the public curiosity, mentioning that the elimination of a low-cost service like Spirit may trigger costs to additional rise throughout the board.

“Right this moment, the 4 largest airways — American, Southwest, Delta, and United — management 80 p.c of the home market, greater than at any level within the trendy historical past of economic aviation,” she wrote. “This dominance has been achieved not primarily by providing higher, extra dependable service to passengers at decrease fares however as an alternative by way of a sequence of airline mega-mergers which have decreased service high quality and elevated fares.”