Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Airline marriages? Call for Jerry Springer.

Well we seem to be heading towards merger-land again if reports, papers and gossip are correct. It seems a bit like springtime when you get the posturing male birds strutting around whilst the shy females look coy and occasionally defensive before they are finally !!!!!! – Well, you know. Then afterwards? You might wonder who actually got taken advantage of.

For instance a possible coupling between United and US Air would be a marriage not so much made in heaven but more likely the other place and I suggest that a strong ’prenup’agreement is put in place. Just think of what kind of offspring they would produce. Something like the banjo playing kid in the old Deliverance film I expect. At least just as smaller stunted and inbred I suspect.

If you want to see a bit of what happens in fast forward look at the quite recent post honeymoon period between Mr Lufthansa and Mrs BMI. According to today’s UK Times newspaper they may have already begun the Brad and Angelina phase along with drastic reductions in the family budget and relatives being shown the door. Are they both happy and will they be soul-mates for life? I am not sure now Mrs BMI is being told a large chunk of her dowry is going to disappear.

I used to think mergers were a great thing. It meant the strong got stronger and the weak were culled but then I started to wonder what benefits (or otherwise) the travelling customer and their employers would receive. If you look at those airlines who choose to ‘live in sin’ by joining alliances I would wager not much. I have not seen any significant financial improvement for customers in fact I have observed the opposite. OK flight services are linked more seamlessly but choice goes down, monopolies go up and contract negotiations become harder. These partnerships are more one of convenience than a desire to do good for their passengers.

Clearly airline mergers will become more frequent as time progresses and barriers disappear. They have become more common because of the new competition airlines are now facing combined with customer behaviour. The more prices are driven down and the more full service airlines fail to sell their benefits in the value add war with no frills carriers the more closures and mergers will take place. The more this happens then the less choice will be out there with less competitive routes and less keen pricing.

I think this kind of ‘progress’ is inevitable and I am not wholly sure I would want to try and stop it anyway. Goodness knows this industry needs to change and this just might be one of the catalysts. What I do think is, rather like the blushing bride we need to go into this with our eyes open and our legs crossed….well at least until after the ceremony!

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