NEW YORK — The government is putting its foot down on rising airfares and fees by blocking the latest airline merger — but for fliers, it’s already too late.
The past decade has seen the largest transformation of the airline industry in a generation. Prior to 2005, there were nine major U.S. airlines. Today, just five.
The merger of American Airlines and US Airways would bring that number down to four. But Tuesday, the Department of Justice moved to block the deal, saying it would cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in higher fares and extra fees.
But even before this, the cost of flying had gone up for consumers as the industry consolidated. The average cost of a roundtrip domestic ticket — including baggage and reservation change fees — grew to $378.62 last year, up from $351.48 in 2008, when adjusted for inflation.
The American-US Airways merger would create the world’s biggest airline and help propel American out of bankruptcy court protection. For smaller US Airways, the deal represents a chance to be a significant player in global aviation and to better compete with the larger airlines that now dominate the market.