The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is looking into whether US airlines worked together illegally to keep airfares high by reducing capacity, cutting back on the number of flights they operate.
The DOJ has written to major US carriers demanding full details of any decisions to limit the number of seats they offer.
The DOJ is investigating “possible unlawful coordination by some airlines”, meaning possible collusion. While the DOJ wouldn’t identify which airlines it is investigating, the US has only four major carriers: American, Delta, Southwest, and United. Together, those carry about 80% of all US domestic passengers.
United and Delta have already admitted that they are under investigation. They say they are complying with the probe.
Airwise.com later reported that American and Southwest had also confirmed receipt of the DOJ letter.
The DOJ has reportedly asked airlines to provide available seat miles on a regional and system-wide basis from January 2010 onward, along with a lot of other information.
US Senator Richard Blumenthal issued a statement saying that the DOJ investigation “must be tireless and timely to save consumers from the onslaught of price increases in summer fares”.
In a rich and potentially embarrassing irony, the investigation comes as three of the four big US airlines are complaining vociferously about Gulf carriers competing unfairly on some overseas routes.
Written by Peter Needham