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The airlines merger: Bitter past is prologue

| Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Culminating US Airways' shafting of taxpayers as that carrier and American Airlines combine, their merger, now a done deal, remains a bad deal for airline passengers in general and for the Pittsburgh region in particular.

Federal judges green-lighted the merger by approving a settlement of antitrust litigation filed by the U.S. Justice Department and six states' attorneys general, including Pennsylvania's. The new American Airlines agreed to relinquish some landing rights at seven airports, but with 80 percent of the market now controlled by just four major carriers, that will do little to address diminished industry competition that inevitably means higher fares.

The Pittsburgh area will lose US Airways' flight operations center in Moon — built with $4 million in public subsidies — and its approximately 700 jobs. It's a painful echo of US Airways' pillaging of the public purse for Pittsburgh International Airport's heavily subsidized rebuilding to the airline's specifications, only to strip it of hub status, hundreds of flights and thousands of jobs.

US Airways' heavy maintenance facility at the airport may fare better, with its 675 unionized workers' Airbus expertise needed as the merged carrier adds 260 such aircraft over the next nine years. But that's little comfort for Western Pennsylvania. And claims by credibility-challenged Doug Parker, the merged airline's CEO — who engineered Pittsburgh's shafting as US Airways CEO — that fares won't rise are just as little comfort for passengers nationwide.

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