Airlines under antitrust scrutiny for limiting seats

Anyone who has flown in the last few years knows planes tend to be full, it’s hard to book a flight on short notice, and last-minute tickets are shockingly expensive.

Now, federal antitrust regulators are looking into whether the four major domestic airlines — American, Delta, Southwest, and United, which together control 80% of the domestic market — have conspired to limit seat availability to drive up airfares.

Fares have jumped 13%, adjusted for inflation, over the last 5 years — not counting baggage check-in fees and other add-on charges, which have proliferated. Airline profits and stocks have soared.

A Justice Department spokesperson “confirmed Wednesday that the department was investigating potential ‘unlawful coordination’ among some airlines” in limiting capacity on certain routes.

581caa0be32e49f69ecdcb30b590c51dThe investigation appears to be focused on “whether [the] airlines illegally signaled to each other” their route capacity decisions, which could reduce competition and affect market pricing of seats.

Photo: Are airlines flying the crooked skies of anti-competitive collusion?

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