Department of Justice Lets US Airlines Off the Hook
January 18, 2017
Like flying in-formation.
When airlines collude as part of a price-fixing conspiracy it leads to
millions of passengers being overcharged for flights.
For years the watchdogs at the US justice department have known of alleged price gouging and 'capacity discipline'.
They knew what was behind
the blight of modern air travel: "Major airlines, in tandem, have
raised fares, imposed new and higher fees, and reduced service," they
Eighteen months ago the U.S. Department of Justice opened a probe whether the major US carriers colluded in expansion plans. We said it was time.
The government accused America's leading airline companies, American, Delta, United and Southwest, of a preference for "tacit coordination over full-throated competition"; and possible violation of US Anti-Trust laws.
Airline Collusion: Nothing New, But Very Difficult To Prove
But after over a year of worrying, US airlines can now relax
because the US Justice Department is taking a step back from its
investigation of collusion, reported Bloomberg last week.
A person familiar with the investigation told Bloomberg that
the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigators did not find enough
evidence to support a case, and that it is unlikely that the department
will file formal action against the airlines.
Most Closely Guarded Secrets
is it that despite a protracted investigation into the commercial
airline sector, the Justice Department could not find any smoking-gun
evidence of collusion it needed?
DOJ has known of alleged price gouging and 'capacity discipline' for
years - but has been unsuccessful in finding cut-and-dried evidence of
Airline insiders and legal analysts said the
government's case against the industry was near-impossible to prove -
regardless that the feds have known about these airfare schemes for
years, but they have not been able to fight back against the lobbyists.
"Airfare decisions normally are among the most closely guarded secrets at airlines," said a 2015 Bloomberg article.
Looking For The Lie
That is the nature of the beast: collusion is difficult to prove, and the tricky thing about colluders is that they operate in secret. Suspicions
and evidence of identical prices are not enough to prove a criminal
offence. Securing a cartel conviction requires the Justice Department to
submit evidence that proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is
an agreement between competitors to fix prices.
airline strategy involves 'conscious parallelism' - all doing the same
thing even though they never explicitly communicate the intention, or
communicate at all - like when all the gas stations in a trade area end
up selling at the same price. The fact alone tempts the conclusion that
conspiracy must exist, but also that there are non-conspiratorial
explanations for the phenomenon.
We know the DOJ has no problems or issues successfully pursuing, proving and prosecuting anti-trust violators - such as the infamous lysine cartel (amino acid) from the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Europe, several years ago.
The question becomes: where is the competition? Where
are Easyjet and Ryanair to disrupt air travel in America? Nowhere: the
country's protectionist policy keeps out foreign airlines. THIS is what
needs to change. The difference in airfares between Europe and North
America is staggering. You can fly from one European country to another
sometimes for the cost of a taxi ride. But every flight in North America
costs a small fortune, particularly, short-haul flights.
Flyers Rights Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity to which contributions are tax deductible.
Passengers should be able to count on TSA and local and state law enforcement authorities to protect them.
The principal lessons from Lockerbie, 9/11 attacks, and the Brussels, Istanbul and now Fort Lauderdale airport massacres are that air transportation continues to be a prime target for terrorism and mass murder.
Airports are now clearly the No. 1 soft target, and are naked and totally unprotected. No act of terrorism and mass murder in history has been thwarted without effective defensive measures in place.
FlyersRights.org has repeatedly called for TSA and Congress to provide for stronger airport security. After a shooting attack at LAX airport in 2013, and again in July 2016 after the Brussels and Istanbul airport massacres, but to date nothing has been done.
On Thursday, Jan. 5, Esteban Santiago showed up at the Anchorage airport. He had a one-way ticket to Florida and checked in at 5:23 p.m. for his flight on Delta Air Lines.
Santiago arrived at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Thursday evening more than four hours before his flight to Florida, bringing with him no baggage other than a handgun case.
It did not create a concern at the airport that he had no carry-on luggage nor bags to check - nor that he had purchased a one-way ticket from Alaska.
Santiago retrieved that case at the international airport in Fort Lauderdale after arriving the next day. He carried it into a nearby men's bathroom, took out his Walther 9mm semiautomatic handgun in a bathroom stall, loaded the gun and stuck it in his waistband. He then left the men's bathroom and shot the first people he encountered.
Santiago fired about 10 to 15 rounds of ammunition starting about 12:56 p.m. Friday at the baggage claim, aiming at his victims' heads. He emptied one magazine and then loaded another.
Now emergency measures must be imposed to prevent more lives from being lost.
"Those victims at Ft. Lauderdale should not have died, and should certainly not have died in vain," Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org, said. "Blood on the ground is unfortunately too often the price for government officials to act."
Emergency measures must be imposed to prevent more lives being lost and to stop another paralyzation of the US air transportation system, as occurred after 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Calling out the National Guard for temporary armed airport security.
Installing airport perimeter security to detect weapons and explosives on persons entering major airports.
Banning the carrying of live ammunition in checked baggage.
Increasing canine patrols to detect explosives.
Placing anyone who is deemed a security threat by a law enforcement agency on the TSA Watch or No Fly list, but with due process means for removal from such lists.
Some critics are coming out to say we're wrong - that our proposals are an 'extreme reaction' to a man with mental health issues.
That our emergency measures would not have prevented the shooting at FLL, that the shooter could have walked into any store selling ammunition, picked up a clip and headed to a crowded beach or mall and done exactly the same. We're not overreacting, and here's why:
Firstly, a visible, ubiquitous armed presence of the National Guard at US airports would cause second thoughts - like airports in Europe.
Second, our focus is on airports and passenger safety at airports - we're not talking about beaches or malls. We're talking about preventing acts of terrorism at airports - not at other places. FlyersRights has never claimed this was a terrorist act. We are saying that transportation continues to be a prime target for terrorism and mass murder. They don't have to be mutually inclusive. You don't have to be associated with a terrorist group to walk into an airport and open fire.
Our intention is to protect air travelers from all mass violence.
Airline Carrier Transportation of Firearms:
Firearms will be accepted only from a customer who is 18 years of age or older.
International firearm regulations vary by destination and transiting country. Contact appropriate consulates or embassies to obtain specific entry requirements applicable to destination(s).
Curbside check-in of a firearm is not permitted.
The firearm must be packaged in a hard-sided container capable of being locked. The container must be locked and the key or combination must remain in the customer's possession.
Handguns must be packed in hard-sided lockable luggage. Baggage containing handguns must be locked at the time of acceptance by United Airlines and the key or combination retained in the passenger's custody.
The firearm will be transported in a section of the aircraft that is inaccessible to the customer. Proof of registration is not required.
No more than 11 pounds of ammunition may be carried. The ammunition may be packed in the same container as the firearm or in a separate container. Ammunition must be packed in the manufacturer's original package or securely packed in fiber, wood or metal containers. The ammunition inside the container must be protected against shock and secured against movement. The ammunition may be packed in the same container as the firearm or in a separate container.
Commentary from FlyersRights' president, Paul Hudson:
I recall how aircraft hijacking evolved in the 1960s when there was no aviation security. Planes were hijacked mainly to Cuba eventually nearly weekly at first by dedicated political radicals, then by criminals fugitives and finally by just deranged people.
Now 50 years later, such incidents are rare due mainly to metal detectors and X-rays of carry on baggage for weapon detection. And when they do occur, as happened recently in flight from Libya to Malta, hijackings without injury are hardly mentioned on the news.
Instead mass killings have become the norm and airports and other mass gatherings have become the new targets because they garner attention and cause maximum destruction of life and society.
The 9/11 terrorists exploited the flaws and weaknesses in private poorly trained airport security. Nineteen out of 19 terrorists passed through security and then used small knives and box cutters to hijack four airliners and turn them into weapons of mass destruction killing nearly 3,000 and destroying the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, costing the US over $100 billion directly and led to two wars
In Afghanistan and Iraq costing over $5 trillion.
Terrorists in 2016 attacked the Brussels and Istanbul airports killing 83 and injuring nearly 600 - costing the countries of Belgium and Turkey billions.
Flyers Rights Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity to which contributions are tax deductible.
We are commited to solutions for promoting airline passenger policies that forward first and foremost the safety of all passengers while not imposing unrealistic economic burdens that adversely affect airline profitability or create exhorbitant ticket price increases.
All American air carriers shall abide by the following standards to ensure the safety, security and comfort of their passengers:
Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.
Notify passengers within ten minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.
Establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.
Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than 3 hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities, and access to medical attention.
Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.
Publish and update monthly on the company’s public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.
Compensate “bumped” passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price.
The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers – that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.
Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.
Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.
Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners.