June 16--Airlines have merged, but the state of competition for most travelers has changed little, according to a June 20 report from the Government Accountability Office. Further, airlines are profitable again, the agency found.
Travelers paid about 4 percent more in 2012 than they did in 2007, but they also have availed themselves of larger networks, the report says. Also, low-cost airlines have expanded on some routes.
Read the report highlights: GAO study of airline competition.pdf
The study lags a little because it didn't cover the latest big merger, between American and U.S. Airways. But now the Big Four -- American, Delta, United and Southwest -- carry 85 percent of U.S. passengers.
In general, airline profits have improved because more people are flying and prices and fees are rising. Airlines now charge for things that used to be included in the price of a ticket, from checked bags to changed dates. Such fees generated about $6 billion for the industry in 2012.
Portland rates a mention in the category of The Obvious: "We also found that longer- distance markets are generally less concentrated than shorter-distance markets. The difference exists in large part because longer-distance markets have more viable options for connecting passengers over more hubs. For example, a passenger on a flight from Richmond, Virginia to Salt Lake City, Utah--a distance of about 2,000 miles--could not fly directly, but would have multiple connecting options, including through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Chicago O'Hare International, and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airports. By comparison, a passenger from Seattle to Portland, Oregon--a distance of just under 300 miles--has no viable connecting options, nor would connections be as attractive to passengers in short-haul markets."
In other words, those who dream of a one-stop flight from PDX-to-Chehalis-to-SeaTac are just going to have to wait.
Copyright 2014 - The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.