It didn't take long. As predicted, within days of the announcement of a proposed United-US Airways merger, American Airlines began negotiations to acquire Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines. News stories Wednesday reported that American has made a $3.7 billion bid to buy Northwest.
Watch out, Minnesota. In particular, watch out, northern Minnesota.
Industry analysts predicted that if United and US Air merged, airline merger mania would begin, resulting in the end with only three major carriers. We're already seeing that happen -- before federal regulators have even passed judgment on the United-US Airways merger proposal.
While it is still too early to do something, Gov. Jesse Ventura, Duluth Mayor Gary Doty, Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and other officials in Minnesota ought to join forces to fight this new round of merger activity in the airline industry.
And if a merger looks inevitable, get ironclad written agreements on a Minnesota headquarters, hub, Duluth maintenance base and Chisholm reservation center.
American Airlines is based in Dallas. It's too good to believe that if American and Northwest combine, the new company will end up with the same number of employees. Minnesota could lose the Northwest headquarters in Eagan.
Would a merged American-Northwest airline keep a third Midwest hub in Minneapolis-St. Paul? Doubtful.
Without a hub in Minneapolis-St. Paul, direct flights to hundreds of cities could be a thing of the past and travelers would have to make flight connections in other cities. Businesses that want direct airline service would move or expand in other hub cities.
Northern Minnesota could also lose flights, since both American and Northwest offer service out of Duluth.
None of this worst-case scenario is inevitable if Minnesotans see the urgency of the merger threat, join together to fight anti-competitive behavior in the airline industry and, if that fails, gain written guarantees from a merged American-Northwest airline. Get on it.
--Duluth News Tribune
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