MIA jobs at risk with airline merger
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Government officials are trying to stop a mega-merger between American Airlines and US Airways, but local leaders support the merger, saying South Florida jobs are on the line.
The prospect of a mega-airline worries some passengers. "I fly American, always, but if the price goes up, I may end up choosing maybe Delta or some other airline," said American Airlines passenger Ryan Rohani.
County officials said if the federal court blocks the $11 billion merger between American and US Airways the outcome would be devastating to Miami International Airport. American Airlines currently occupies about 70 percent of space at MIA.
Director of Miami-Dade Aviation Emilio Gonzalez said, "This airport generates jobs. This airport generates revenue, income. You have no idea how big this airport is to Miami-Dade County, and we need to protect our equity as we go forward."
Last week, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block the merger, saying it would result in higher prices and fewer options to flyers. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi agrees, saying the merger is anticompetitive. However, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a letter to the US Attorney General Eric Holder, "The lawsuit places MIA, which competes with Atlanta and Houston with international passengers and cargo, at a competitive disadvantage. Atlanta is a major Delta hub and Houston a United hub," said Gimenez.
In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Gimenez said, "We're talking directly to the hubs that Delta represents and also that United represent. This airport may lose out if something like this doesn't go through for American, which we actually believe puts them at the same level-footing as Delta and United."
He added, the merger would actually "have an undeniably positive effect on our community, more jobs for our residents, new routes and greater access for locals and visitors."
American Airlines released the following statement:, "We applaud Mayor Gimenez's initiative. We appreciate Miami-Dade County's continued strong support of American Airlines and are glad to know that the leadership in the County, including Aviation Department Director Emilio Gonzalez, agree that the merger is the best path forward for both airlines and the customers and communities we serve."
Talks of the merger began last year with the boards of both companies approving the merger in February.
The merger is believed to be a bounce-back opportunity for American after they filed for bankruptcy. For US Airways, it can mean major growth.
Concerned flyer Natasha Sepahi fears the merger could stifle competition. "If it merges," she said. "I guess they don't have competition, we won't know what the prices will be."
Another passenger, Tom McCormick, countered, "There are always going to be some lower fare airlines, Southwest, JetBlue."
However, most of the airlines with lower fares do not fly out of MIA. What may cost passengers more may be best for Miami-Dade residents with one in four jobs tied to the airport, stated officials.
The fate of the merger is now in the hands of the court.
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