Political Hurdles Coming for the United and Continental Merger
Continental Airlines has filed the required papers to make their airline merger with United official, so now the only things left are to dot the i's, cross the t's, go through the onerous process of getting government approval, and then go through the even more onerous process of physically combining the two fleets.
That last part is going to have to wait a while, since the House won't even get around to holding hearings until June, and those hearings promise to be kind of brutal for United and Continental.
What's behind the grumbling? Simply put: the inescapable, undeniable, basic fact that prices will increase as the newly merged airline sheds redundant routes. Surveys show that people are starting to realize that they're in for higher costs, and so Congresspeople have to make a show of being "tough." How much of a difference will all the posturing make? Absolutely none at all.
Congress doesn't get to decide whether specific airlines merge, which is probably a good thing since every time they get involved in the airline industry specifically, or in tourism more generally, they screw things up spectacularly. The final call is going to be made by government regulators, and presumably the monster lawyers that United and Continental employ don't think they'll have too many problems. The only thing that Congress can do is pass new regulations if they think that the current ones&151;the ones that eventually will allow the merger to go throughare inadequate. Which isn't going to happen during the crunch of an election year.
Any hearing, to say nothing of all the ominous-sounding sound bites about demanding answers, will be pure political theater. Airline executives who are bored will sit behind a table, Congresspeople who don't really understand the airline industry will sit in front of them, questions will be asked, answers will be given, and that'll be that.
[Photo: Kevin McCoy / Wiki Commons]
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