Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 13, 2013

Aviation settlement benefits TC travelers

BY GLENN PUIT
gpuit@record-eagle.com

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A legal settlement stemming from the proposed merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways should secure several flights at Cherry Capital Airport for years to come, officials said.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued American Airlines and U.S. Airways over the companies' proposed merger, expressing concerns that the merger was anti-competitive and might cut service at some airports. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he agreed to join the lawsuit in September out of concerns that the merger could impact Michigan airports, in particular reducing airline service to several of the state's smaller aviation facilities.

A preliminary agreement was reached Tuesday between the federal government and the airlines over the lawsuit. Schuette said the settlement includes provisions requiring the new American Airlines to maintain daily scheduled service at Detroit Metropolitan, Flint, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Marquette airports for the next five years.

The new airline was unlikely to drop service to Detroit, but could have decided to stop flying to some smaller airports, the Associated Press reported. The five years will start from the time a federal judge approves the settlement.

The settlement also includes several other components, including divestiture of slots at Reagan National Airport and New York LaGuardia, as well as divestiture of gates at various large hub airports around the country, including Boston Logan International, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas Love Field, Los Angeles International and Miami International.

Cherry Capital Airport Executive Director Kevin Klein said the settlement is good news for the region's residents.

"This particular lawsuit was trying to insure Michigan consumers were protected and there’s a continued positive tone for air service in the state of Michigan," said Klein, who also heads the Michigan Association of Airport Executives. "It's good news for our consumers."

American already services Cherry Capital with regular flights to Chicago but U.S. Airways does not. If the consolidation continues, the merger could allow more access for Traverse City travelers to East Coast airports serviced by U.S. Airways, including Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Charlotte and Phoenix.