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Friday, June 21, 2013

Plane Talk

So, I’m flipping channels the other night and I end up on C-SPAN. Now, mind you, I do watch C-SPAN every now and then (in fact, my viewing of such while living in Santa Barbara made me realize I needed to move back East). But when I do watch, 99.9% of the time, I watch authors discussing their works. I never, ever watch Congressional hearings. Except that last night, I did.

The topic was the merger between American Airlines and US Airways. The hearing was held by the Senate Aviation Subcommittee. The main questioners were Senators Maria Cantwell (WA) and Mark Warner (VA). The main testifiers were Doug Parker, currently CEO of US AIrways and soon-to-be CEO of the merged company, and Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance.

The main point of contention was the necessity of slot divestitures at Washington's Reagan National Airport (DCA) If the carriers don't give up slots at National upon merging, the new airline will control two-thirds of the flights out of DCA. There was also a discussion of loosening DCA’s perimeter rule, currently restricting the number of daily flights beyond 1,250 miles from the airport.
But that’s not really the stuff that intrigued me. Right now, US Airways is in an alliance with United. United has an international hub at Washington Dulles (IAD). So, when US Airways devotees, particularly those who live in smaller cities, currently ponder one-stop routes to Europe, Dulles is a strong East Coast hub airport to consider. While they can’t fly direct on US Airways equipment, they can still get a code share flight on a U.S.-based carrier.
But if US Airways merges with American, that leaves US Airways and American passengers without an international DC hub. American’s main international hubs on this side of the country are the New York's JFK and Miami. Meanwhile, you can get to Europe on US Airways via Philadelphia or Charlotte. For the most part, you won't be able to get there from Dulles on the merged US Airways/American.
And that weakens Dulles. And that worries Warner, whose constituency would be affected by the loss of business. I don’t know why I find that little tidbit so interesting--after all, I can fly United directly out of Dulles without connecting, so I am not personally impacted. But in all of the minutiae involved in airline mergers, the international hub issue is one I never considered. Just my two cents and some food for thought. Of course, if that food for thought is requested in the air, there will be a charge of more than two cents. But ancillary fees...that's an issue for another post.

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