Longer delays, more cancellations after airlines merge, study says

American Airlines planes
Flight delays and cancellations increase when airline competition drops, a new study says. Above, two American Airlines jets in St. Louis in December 2013.
(Bill Montgomery / Houston Chronicle)

A government study on the effects of airline mergers found that flight cancellations and delays increased when competition on a route drops.

The study by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general was ordered by Congress in the wake of the proposal to merge American Airlines and US Airways into the world’s largest air carrier.

The study looked at delays and cancellation rates when the number of airlines serving a route dropped from three to two airlines. It looked at 32.2 million flights and flight performances from 70 U.S. airports.

The length of delays rose 25% after competition was cut, the study found. Plus, flight cancellations increased 7% after competition dropped, according to the study.


Although the length of delays rose, the study found only a slight change in the percentage of late flights even after competition dropped.

The report was submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation; neither agency has submitted comments in response. The study does not propose any action by either agency.

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