Many companies featured on Money advertise with us. Opinions are our own, but compensation and
in-depth research determine where and how companies may appear. Learn more about how we make money.

Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

By Kerry Close
February 2, 2016
Ssarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—AP Images (3); Getty Images (1)

If you’re a frequent flyer who’s noticed fewer choices in terms of routes and airlines, you’re not alone—and some travel groups want to do something about it.

One of their main points of contention is that years of industry consolidation has allowed four airlines—American, Delta, Southwest and United—to take control of 80% of the domestic market. Now, a coalition of travel groups—which include the U.S. Travel Association and the American Society of Travel Agents—is urging Congress to investigate the state of competition (or lack thereof) in the airline business, according to USA Today.

Since the last time a similar study was commissioned, in 1993, Northwest Airlines became part of Delta, Continental was absorbed by United, and U.S. Airways was taken over by American. The airline groups are worried that the hubs shut down due to consolidation have limited options for flying and raised prices for travelers. Between 2006 and 2012, some affected airports and airlines include:

  • Cincinnati lost a Delta hub and departing passengers decreased from 7.5 million to 2.8 million.
  • Cleveland lost a United hub and passengers decreased from nearly 5.3 million to nearly 4.2 million.
  • Memphis lost a Northwest hub and passengers decreased from nearly 5.3 million to 3.3 million.
  • Pittsburgh lost a U.S. Airways hub and passengers decreased from 4.8 million to 3.8 million.

Their argument might have some merit: Profits reported by the airlines in 2015 were easily the highest since Congress deregulated the industry in 1978. Still, it’s not clear whether the mergers have caused fares to spike. While some former hubs have seen a decline in traffic, they might not have been profitable anyway, USA Today reported. What’s more, after accounting for inflation, U.S. travelers fly farther for cheaper since deregulation, according to Transportation Department statistics.

But Matt Cornelius, vice president for air policy at Airports Council International-North America, said the groups’ concern deals with both the loss of service at former hubs, as well as the ability of single airlines to control most of the traffic flying out of larger markets.

“We have seen after the mergers of the large legacy carriers a reduction in that competition,” Cornelius said.

Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

EDIT POST