Impact of mergers
a mixed bag
The spate of airline mergers over the last decade raised fears among consumer advocates that the consolidation would kill competition and lead to higher fares.
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In fact, the results have been a bit more mixed, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office’s report that found competition increased slightly on the nation’s most popular air routes and at the country’s largest airports. Competition decreased on less popular routes and in smaller airports.
For example, the route from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Los Angeles International Airport was served in 2007 by three “effective competitors,” defined in the study as airlines with at least a 5 percent share of the overall market. By 2012, the number of competitors increased to five, the study said.
The study looked at the changes in the industry from 2007 to ’12, the period when Delta Air Lines acquired Northwest Airlines, United Airlines merged with Continental Airlines and Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran. American and US Airways announced a merger in 2013 but have yet to complete it.
The main reason the mergers have not slashed competition, according to the study, has been the growth of low-cost carriers such as Southwest.
But Diana Moss, vice president of the American Antitrust Institute, said the biggest effect of the mergers so far has been felt at small and medium-size airports.
The GAO report noted that the route between Boise, Idaho, and Bozeman, Mont., was served by one major airline in 2012, down from three in 2007.
National Zoo closes exhibit
The National Zoo is closing its Invertebrate Exhibit, citing rising costs and $5 million in needed upgrades.
The Invertebrate Exhibit’s operating cost was about $1 million. It opened originally in 1987. Currently, it houses cuttlefish, corals, crabs, clams and butterflies, among other creatures. The animals will be sent to new homes.
Zoo Director Dennis Kelly says the closure is necessary for the zoo’s financial and operational health. He says the zoo faces rising costs and must adapt its programs to live within its budget.
The National Park Service has started part-time closures on popular Zion National Park trails as they work to improve the paths.
The Hidden Canyon Trail and portions of the East Rim and Observation Point trails will be closed from Monday through Thursday through the end of the summer.
The park service is starting a multi-year project to rehabilitate trails out of the Weeping Rock shuttle area.
Spirit Airlines said it will begin daily service between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International and New Orleans on Aug. 1.