The ink wasn’t dry on the license from the Department of Justice when Delta and Northwest rushed to the altar and made their merger final today.
Never mind that Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was leaping out his seat to protest, as Terry Maxon points out on the Airline Biz blog at the Dallas Morning News. The DOJ wasn’t listening.
So what does this mean to you, the airline customer? Not much, at least for a while.
Says Delta: “Customers should continue to check-in and do business directly with the airline operating their flight just as they did before the merger.”
So at first Northwest will operate as a separate, wholly owned subsidiary of Delta. And over the next two years the airlines will gradually combine their flight schedules, frequent-flier programs, ground operations and fleets under the Delta name.
It has been widely speculated that the merged airline will not keep both Delta’s hub at Cincinnati and Northwest’s nearby hub at Memphis. David Grossman at USA Today thinks that both those secondary hubs may be downsized.
The DOJ concluded that the merger “is not likely to substantially lessen competition.” I don’t see how that works, with the Big Six legacy carriers dwindling to a Big Five. And certainly closing or scaling back service at hubs would have an effect on customers in those areas. But time will tell.
In any event, it sure is going to be weird to fly on a Delta Airbus jet, as Delta has always had an all-American fleet. I hope I never see one of the Northwest DC-9s in Delta livery, though. Those babies need to be retired!