The United States Justice Department is leading an investigation into “possible unlawful coordination” among several major airlines regarding the limiting of capacity increases and keeping ticket prices high.
Spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Emily Pierce said that the department sent civil investigative demand letters to airlines on Tuesday.
It is not clear to investigators whether the airlines were coordinating, or how this was achieved, but public comments by airline executives and industry analysts are among the evidence that investigators are considering.
The Justice Department in recent years allowed major airline mergers which has led to industry groups proclaiming that air travel is gotting tougher for consumers.
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow in a statement said, “if not for the radical consolidation we have seen in the airline industry in the last few years, we probably would not even be having this conversation. Now that four carriers control 85 percent of domestic routes, ‘collusion’ is a thought that’s constantly going to be in the back of the minds of federal regulators.”
CNN reported that a United Airlines spokesperson confirmed to them that the airline has received a letter from the DOJ. American Airlines said they also had received notice from the Justice Department.
“We welcome the review … Demand has been enabled by a robust and competitive marketplace in which capacity has been added and average fares have decreased,” a spokesperson for American Airlines said. “We will cooperate fully with the investigation and demonstrate that the last two years have presented an entirely new competitive landscape that has greatly benefited air travel consumers.”
A spokesperson from Southwest Airlines confirmed receiving notice from Justice and said, “We’ll cooperate fully in answering any questions the (Justice Department) has of us.”
JetBlue said they have not been contacted for the investigation.