Where was DOJ in Southwest-AirTran merger?

I feel compelled to highlight the hypocrisy in the decision of the Justice Department to block the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. While I don't have a position one way or the other on the merger, I think the government's stance is comical considering the rubber stamping that the same agency gave the merger of Southwest and AirTran in 2011.

In a press release, the Justice Department stated the following in respect to the American/US Airways merger:

"You don't need to go far from this very city to see another worrisome effect from the proposed merger. Across the Potomac River, the merged airline would dominate Washington Reagan National Airport, by controlling 69 percent of the take-off and landing slots at DCA."

Even though from my perspective it seems like the Justice Department has a legitimate concern, I would like to know where this same concern on their part was when Southwest acquired AirTran. The federal government is lamenting the possibility of 69 percent of Reagan National flights coming from one airline when as a direct result of the Southwest/AirTran merger, 72 percent of the flights out of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport are controlled by a single entity. While apparently no one was looking or caring, Southwest has turned BWI into a single airline facility (Delta Airlines is a distant second with 6 percent of the flights), and BWI has gone from one of the lowest cost facilities (due to competition) to one of the highest.

If you need any proof of my assertion, look no further than the Sunshine State. We are now coming to an end of the summer vacation season, and Florida is probably the most popular family destination in our country (at least on the East Coast). While it is impressive that BWI has 43 nonstop flights a day to Florida, it may surprise you to know that all but three of those flights are on Southwest/AirTran. American Airlines has three flights to Miami out of BWI and all the other destinations (Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach and Panama City) are monopolized by a single carrier. So once again, I ask where was the outrage from the Justice Department or our local elected leaders when Southwest acquired AirTran and everyone in the industry knew it would be the death blow for low fares out of markets like Baltimore and every Maryland family who was looking to take a Disney trip would end up spending much, much more?

While I am pleased to see the federal government looking out for the citizens of the District of Columbia and the state of Virginia, I simply wish someone would have been doing the same a few years ago for the citizens of Maryland.

Ken Rohrer, Catonsville

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