About 300 airline pilots and flight attendants joined union officials and lawmakers from both parties in front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the creation of the world’s largest airline.
The $11 billion merger of American Airlines and US Airways was on its way to completion by year’s end until the Justice Department, joined by six states and the District of Columbia, sued last month to block it.
In its complaint, the Justice Department’s antitrust division says the merger would be bad for consumers, leading to reduced competition and higher fares. The case is scheduled to go to trial in federal district court in November.
The unions representing airline employees support the merger, and they took that message to Congress on Wednesday, holding signs that read “Let Us Compete Together” and chanting, “DOJ, say OK!”
Glading said she and other union leaders met with Bill Baer, the Justice Department’s antitrust chief, and his deputy, David Gelfand. Several lawmakers are drafting a letter to President Barack Obama requesting that Attorney General Eric Holder drop the antitrust complaint.
Echoing a frequent criticism leveled at the Justice Department lawsuit, James Ray, communications chairman for the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, ticked off three major airline mergers the government had approved in recent years and questioned why this one is different.
“Why is it that the same government that deregulated this industry 35 years ago decided to re-regulate it today?” he said.
Where the Justice Department sees an airline colossus that would raise fares and baggage fees, eliminate competition on some routes, and dominate takeoff and landing slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the airline employees see a stronger company that would provide more job security and would better compete with large airlines such as Delta and United.
“This was an employee-driven merger,” said Kazumi Chapa, a flight attendant based at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. “We want to survive.”
Click here to read the full story that appeared in Thursday's Star-Telegram.
Photos by Olivier Douliery (MCT)