Niagara Gazette

February 24, 2013

GLYNN: Airline fares often soar with mergers

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — That pending merger between US Airways and the bankrupt American Airlines could raise your fare some day on a flight out of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. It could also result in the newly-formed airline offering fewer flights.

For the record, that's what usually occurs after such mergers, the airlines industry experts agree. That, of course, may not happen — the higher prices and reduced service — if U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer  has a voice in the matter. The senior senator from New York said last week that when US Airways initially sought his support for the merger in 2012, he made it clear that he would approve the merger on condition that four key factors be considered: retaining jobs, keeping prices down, and maintaining the service to upstate cities (Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Syracuse and Ithaca). In addition, Schumer insists that the merger would keep a hub at JFK Airport in New York City.

In a recent release from his office, the senior senator from New York recalled that US Airways Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said he was committed to fulfilling all those conditions if a merger was approved. "Now I will hold him to his word," Schumer said, "And I will be watching like a hawk to make sure that thousands of jobs and service to 13 New York cities is maintained as part of this merger."

Schumer might find that an uphill battle. Those industry analysts generally agree that passengers can usually expect higher ticket prices from a merger. That's because of supply and demand, coupled with rising fuel prices, they explain. 

There is a bright side to the merger talk, says Rob Lovitt, a veteran travel writer who keeps tabs on the airlines: "Unlike previous mergers, in which overlapping networks led to service cuts and gutted hubs, the two carriers' (American & US Airways) route maps are more complementary than conflicting."

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NHL DEBUT: Ron Ralston, the Buffalo Sabres interim coach, was asked Thursday night how it felt to be behind the bench in the National Hockey League. Ralston, who had coached the Sabres' minor league team in Rochester for the last 16 months, told reporters: "It was a great feeling, obviously, a spectacular building (Air Canada Centre) and atmosphere. It was certainly a big thrill." 

It wasn't exactly a bed of roses though. The Sabres lost to the Maple Leafs, 3-1. Ralston was catapulted into the spotlight on Wednesday when coach Lindy Ruff was fired after 15 years at the helm.

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A NEW JOB: Former Gov. David A. Paterson has joined the faculty at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem. A spokesman said Paterson will serve as a distinguished professor lecturing on health care legislation and the relationship between government and the health care system. Paterson was the state chief executive from 2008 to 2010.

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ON THE WATERFRONT: The Olcott Lions Club is sponsoring the 44th annual "Swim for Sight" on March 3 at Krull Park in the hamlet, It's an opportunity for swimmers of all ages to take a dip in the lake and raise funds to benefit the programs that the Lions Club coordinates in the community. Additional information for participants as well as the needed volunteers is available on the web: www.olcottlions.org/swim.

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THE LONG RUN: Overheard in Ashker's Cafe, Youngstown: "If you want something that will last forever, take out a mortgage!" — a local resident talking about buying a home.

Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.