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Airport competition

Air Transportation IndustrySouthwest AirlinesAirTranRonald ReaganUS AirwaysU.S. Department of TransportationSpirit Airlines

This past week, the Department of Justice sued to stop the merger between US Airways and American Airlines ("Where was DOJ in Southwest-AirTran merger?" Aug. 15).

One reason for the department's actions is because the merger would reduce competition at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport, where the combined airline would control 69 percent of the flights.

At BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, Southwest Airlines, which acquired AirTran Airways in 2011, has a combined market share of roughly 70 percent. So what's the big deal?

Reagan is a unique airport because of its federally imposed cap on daily flights. Today, there are no available takeoff or landing "slots," or flight authorizations, at Reagan. It is closed to new airline competition.

This is not the situation at BWI. BWI is an open airport. There are no flight caps or barriers to entry. An airline like Spirit Airlines can come in freely and compete against Southwest to cities like Ft. Lauderdale.

It's completely false to claim BWI is one of the most expensive airports. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, BWI is not even in the top 350 most expensive U.S. commercial airports.

BWI's average one-way airfare in the first quarter of 2013 was $326. Compare that to 1993, which was right before Southwest came to BWI. Adjusted for inflation, the average one-way airfare at BWI in 1993 was $705.

BWI remains a great value for Maryland travelers, despite the recent national trend of greater airline consolidation, higher jet fuel prices and more and more passenger-paid fees.

David Richardson, Bel Air

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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