Delta + Northwest = Engaged

Northwest came out of a board meeting wearing Delta’s ring today, but there are some in the wedding party who’d like to trip up this merger.

The pilots are none too thrilled. And The New York Times points out that Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, the Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, might just stand up and refuse to hold his peace.

But what about us passengers?

According to a new Web site launched to promote the merger, it’s going to be great for passengers!

There’s even a page devoted to how it will benefit each state: “Connecticut will benefit from single carrier access to over 390 worldwide destinations.”

Why is this better than dual-carrier access to those destinations? Right now, with code sharing and alliance agreements, I can already buy a ticket on Delta and end up on a Northwest flight earning Delta frequent flier miles.

Of course, there are several ways the merger might affect passengers. (The Detroit Free Press expounds on several in a nice Q&A.) But the merger – if it gets regulatory approval – is still at least six months away. And it’s really too soon to know how it will all go down.

While Delta and Northwest claim they’re going to keep all their domestic hubs operating, there’s a great deal of skepticism about that. The Northwest hub at Detroit and the Delta hub at Cincinnati are so close that it seems logical that only one will survive. And that would certainly have an impact on passengers in that area.

What will the merged schedule look like? For example, will Delta want to keep flying NW 97/98, Bradley’s only direct transatlantic flight? Who knows.

Then there’s the speculation about frequent flier miles. The airlines’ mileage programs will merge, preserving everyone’s mileage. But if the availability of award seats tightens up, members of both programs will lose out. (Many people posting on the FlyerTalk forums are talking about redeeming their Northwest miles asap.)

And of course, less competition will mean higher fares. But that strikes me as utterly inevitable, whether this merger goes through or not.

The industry simply won’t survive without raising fares. Whatever needs to happen so fares can rise to cover fuel prices — mergers, bankruptcies, whatever – will happen.

 Speaking of mergers, next up: United + Continental?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *