Attorney General Phil Weiser urges USDOT to strengthen regulations to encourage competition among airlines
Healthy competition in turn protects consumers, Weiser says
Nov 3, 2021 (DENVER) — Attorney General Phil Weiser today urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to foster increased competition among airlines in order to better protect consumers.
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the attorney general expressed concern that the airline industry is highly concentrated and provides too limited competition to spur lower prices, higher quality services, and more consumer choices. The letter recommends that the USDOT develop a new model to catalyze competition and lower barriers to entry in the airline industry.
“Current airline consolidation and partnership practices do not adequately serve the public and the greater marketplace,” said Weiser. “My office is committed to enabling more competition within the airline industry, thereby providing Colorado consumers with better prices, higher quality services, and more choices as they travel.”
Slot management — or management of the specific points in time allotted for an aircraft to land or take off at an airport — can restrict competition by leaving certain airlines in control of the majority of slots at certain airports. Allowing dominant airlines to control slots can threaten to box out other airlines, especially low-fare carriers, from flying into these airports. To address this issue and to protect consumers and catalyze competition, the letter calls on USDOT to evaluate carefully airline partnership practices, especially those which result in slots being controlled by a small number of airlines.
How airlines sell seats on flights operated by other airlines, often referred to as code-sharing, can also impact competition. These code-sharing arrangements can be pro-competition in some circumstances, such as when U.S. carriers can sell seats on international flights, but such arrangements can also result effectively in a merger between airlines, which can decrease competition and inflate prices. To address this concern, Weiser urges USDOT in the letter to treat such arrangements with skepticism to ensure that consumers benefit.
By addressing both these practices, the USDOT can help lower barriers to entry into the airline industry and keep practices and prices fair for all airline consumers, including Coloradans, Weiser said. The letter therefore urges the USDOT to perform a thorough investigation into how current airline practices impact airline customers, employees, and the public.