Aviation Trade groups want Congress to study airline competition By Robert Silk / February 03, 2016 Share 1 -- Eleven trade organizations have banded together to call for Congress to establish a national commission to study the impact that U.S. airline consolidation has had on competition. In a letter last month to key members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the trade groups wrote that it has been 22 years since a national commission was last convened to report on the state of competition in air travel. Meanwhile, since 2006, the U.S. airline industry has seen the number of primary carriers shrink from 11 to four, the groups noted. Those four (American, Delta, Southwest and United) control nearly 80% of domestic seat capacity.“This has led to a significant reduction of flight options at many major cities across the country, such as Cincinnati, St. Louis and Memphis, and the elimination and/or reduction of effective competition in many city pairs,” the trade groups wrote. “The changing operational models impacting airline hubs, as well as changes in the airline fleet mix and pilot supply, in turn, have also limited flight options and competition to many smaller communities.”Among the signatories to the letter are Travel Technology Association (which represents OTAs, GDSs and travel metasearch sites), ASTA, U.S. Travel Association, Business Travel Coalition, Global Business Travel Association and Airports Council International – North America. They’re asking for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to establish the commission as part of a forthcoming FAA reauthorization bill. The FAA is presently funded under temporary legislation, which expires on March 31. Along with the impact of consolidation on the domestic airline industry, the trade groups suggested that such a commission explore the impact that proposals to curb international Open Skies agreements would have on competition. Though not stated specifically, the suggestion is a reference to the push by American, Delta and United for sanctions against Gulf carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, which the U.S. Big 3 accuse of accepting state subsidies, in violation of Open Skies deals. The trade groups also proposed that the commission look into the impact that joint ventures between U.S. and foreign carriers have on competition. Such partnerships operate with antitrust immunity, granted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which allow them to coordinate in flight scheduling.“These are only a handful of the topics that could be explored by a commission on air competition,” the trade groups said.