The Justice Department confirms it is investigating whether airlines are colluding to limit available seats as part of an effort to keep airfares high.
Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said the department was investigating potential ‘unlawful coordination’ among some airlines. She declined to comment further, including about which airlines are being investigated. Other published reports have indicated that Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines have received letters from the DOJ and are complying.
Clark Howard says while airfares are certainly high, he says proving collusion will be difficult because U.S. airlines have been open about how they need to operate as a successful business.
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‘They’re going to be very disciplined about adding any new service or any new aircraft and keep expressing it at industry conferences,’ said Clark.
‘My concern is (this) is a form of signaling, that three near monopoly competitors are signaling to each other — you stay out of my hair, I’ll stay out of yours,’ added Clark
As for when we might see more affordable airfares, Clark expects the market will have to take care of itself, because ‘[he] think[s] it will be impossible to prove (collusion).’
Following a series of mergers starting in 2008, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines now control more than 80 percent of the seats in U.S. skies. They have eliminated unprofitable flights, filled a higher percentage of seats on planes and worked to slow growth in order to command higher airfares.
To find the best fares, you have to outsmart the airlines at their own game. You’ll typically find cheaper fares on hard discounters like Allegiant, Spirit, and Frontier. Look at them for select routes. The other thing you’ll want to do to save money: Be willing to change planes and make a connection!