Where Airline Mergers Would Hurt Travelers Most

Cincinnati, Memphis, and Cleveland may be the biggest losers, while fares to other hub cities shoot up.

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If several of the nation's big airlines merge, as industry executives have been advocating for months, airfares would probably rise, some cities might get a bit of additional service, and other cities would see flights scaled back significantly. With help from the trade publication Airline Weekly, we've examined the top 50 airports to determine the likely effects of two possible megamergers: a Delta-Northwest alliance and a United-Continental hookup. Here are the cities that would be most deeply affected:

Airport Dominant carriers Possible impact Routes where fares could rise most
Atlanta Delta, AirTran Delta, Northwest combine flights; could increase int'l service, might have to give up a few gates. Memphis, Minneapolis, Detroit
Denver United, Frontier United, Continental combine flights; larger presence. Houston, Newark, Cleveland
Houston Intercontinental Continental Continental, United combine flights; could offer more int'l service. Denver, San Francisco, Dulles
Minneapolis–
St. Paul
Northwest Northwest, Delta combine flights; exercise near-monopoly control. Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Atlanta
Detroit Northwest Northwest, Delta combine flights; larger presence. Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Cincinnati
San Francisco United United, Continental combine flights; larger presence. Houston, Cleveland, Newark
Newark Continental Continental, United combine flights; larger presence, could offer more int'l service. Washington–Dulles, Denver, San Francicso
New York–
Kennedy Int'l
JetBlue, Delta, American Delta, Northwest combine flights; could offer more int'l service. Minneapolis, Detroit, Memphis
New York–
LaGuardia
Delta, American, USAirways Delta, Northwest combine flights; larger presence. Minneapolis, Detroit, Memphis
Salt Lake City Delta, Southwest Delta, Northwest could cut back flights; consolidate connections at Minneapolis. Less nonstop service. Minneapolis, Detroit, Memphis
Washington, D.C.–
Dulles Int'l
United United, Continental combine flights; could shift some overseas flights to Newark or vice versa. Newark, Houston, Cleveland
Washington, D.C.–
Reagan Nat'l
USAirways, Delta, American Delta, Northwest combine flights; become very strong in northeast corridor Minneapolis, Memphis, Detroit
Cincinnati Delta Delta, Northwest scale back or close hub, consolidating connections at Detroit. Fewer nonstops, but could open door to discounters. Minneapolis, Memphis, Detroit
Cleveland Continental, Southwest Continental, United reduce flights or close hub, consolidating connections at Chicago's O'Hare. Fewer nonstops, but might attract discounters, and Southwest could expand. Washington–Dulles, Denver, San Francisco
Memphis Northwest Northwest, Delta reduce flights or close hub, fewer nonstops, but could attract discounters Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Cincinnati

Sources: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Official Airline Guide, Seth Kaplan of Airline Weekly

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