With the recent news of a potential US Airways and American Airlines merger, this would be the third major airline merger in the US in the last two years. In 2010, Southwest Airlines and AirTran merged while in 2011, United Airlines and Continental joined together.
What effect do airline mergers have on passengers?
Many travelers may not think much about mergers. Many may not know what to think. However, people are already frustrated with airlines.
Baggage fees. Frustrations with airline taxes. Paying for meals on their flights. Check in fees. Delays and cancellations. Crowded airports and holiday travel stress.
Air travel demand is expected to increase for summer travel and once again airfare prices are on the rise. While fees and frustrations rise, so has the price of airfares.
Aside from our growing frustrations and empty wallets, airlines are not what they used to be.
The De-evolution of air travel
Many years ago, people used to dress up to fly on an airplane because flying was a special event. We received warm smiles, pillows, a blanket, and an airline meal. When the planes used to land, passengers applauded the pilot.
How times have changed.
To be fair, airline safety has improved. There are more places accessible by plane giving travelers more opportunities to see the world. As the number of people flying has increased, this has made us more globally connected as we are able to meet people from all over the world.
On board, we have now have TVs, movies, games, and WiFi to keep us entertained. Longer distances on flights have caused airlines to find ways to keep passengers entertained. None of this would be possible without the growth of air travel.
Despite all the positive aspects of air travel, airlines seem to be getting worse as customer satisfaction goes down.
Frustrations with the airlines may be at an all time high. While many people may not consider airline mergers to be a bad thing, they may lead to more frustrations and problems for travelers.
How airline mergers may hurt travelers
While there may be some positives as a result of these mergers, there are some potential negative effects for business travelers, holiday travelers, and vacationers.
Here are 5 ways these airline mergers may change the way we travel.
Many airlines have flights to the same cities. When airlines merge, both airlines will not have the same number of departures as they had before they combined. Consolidation of flights and schedules will mean fewer options for passengers.
There are times when an airline merger expands an its reach and market. This happened with Southwest Airlines and AirTran as Southwest was able to have more of a presence in the Southeast. This also made Southwest an international airline.
With the mergers of Continental and United and now US Airways and American Airlines, this will lead to fewer flights.
Fewer flights, less competition, and not as many routes for a destination will mean seats will fill up faster. This will lead to higher airfares for many destinations.
Poor customer service
When there aren’t as many available flights on airlines, the lack of competition may lead to more expensive flights and full planes. This could cause more stress for flight attendants, crews, and customer service as an increase in potential fliers could lead to decrease in the quality of service provided.
Lost airline miles
When airlines merge, this can have an effect on airline miles. Currently, American Airlines and US Airways are on two different alliance systems. This means that these airlines partner with different airlines for flights and airline miles.
Once these airlines merge, one of these airlines will lose its alliance meaning many customers may lose their miles as well. And even if they keep their miles, a new partnership will mean losing airline status and miles with airlines under the old program.
When United and Continental merged into United’s Mileage Plus program, they took the best of both airlines programs and put them together. However, customers still lost out as they no longer had the option of flying with Continental’s previous airline partners.
Another effect of combining programs? More people on the same program and fewer flights may mean fewer seats available for using those airline miles to book free flights.
While many may think this is stating the obvious since there will be fewer flights and higher airfares, less competition has other effects as well.
In the last couple of years, airlines have attempted numerous airfare hikes. Some of these have stuck while many others have failed. Why? Because not all the airlines followed the lead of others.
When one of the major airlines initiates a fair hike, other airlines follow or the hike is rolled back. Now with fewer airlines, there is the potential for these hikes to stick.
With two airlines merging into one, there may also be pressure to increase the revenues for these airlines. This may mean more creative revenue models, otherwise known as airline fees.
While airlines see these mergers as a great way to consolidate and cut costs, less competition may mean more power. With airfare hikes and potential new fees, there are fewer airlines and fewer deals for flying.
The future of airlines
The rising cost of fees may be just one of many consequences of these mergers. Already, we see Spirit airlines increasing their carry on fee to $200 round trip.
With fewer airlines and the potential for fewer flights and higher airfares, what’s the future of the airline industry?
Bottom line – our flight experiences have decreased in quality while the cost to fly has gone up.
There are some people that applaud the increase in air travel has caused a negative affect on the environment. Some want more fees and higher airfares to decrease the demand for flights in order to protect the environment.
Regardless of how people feel about air travel, the airline industry is changing. There are some positive effects but also some potential downsides for travelers.
Maybe these mergers, fees, and higher airfares will open the door to a new industry or sweeping changes. The airline passenger bill of rights is one way to help protect passengers against the powers and abuse of airlines.
However, we could see a brand new world emerging – even if you don’t get on the airplane.
What is your opinion on airline mergers – are they good or bad? How do you feel about the air travel industry right now?
For more advice, news, and tips, check out the travel tips section to save money on your next trip, deal with holiday travel stress, and make your time and money go further when you are on vacation.
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