Dear AARP, please take a stand on the airline mergers

By | March 5th, 2008

In an earlier blog posting, I wondered why membership organizations with large numbers of air travelers aren’t taking a stand against the coming wave of airline mergers. And so did Eric Voth, an AARP member who wrote to his organization to ask why it wasn’t using its considerable lobbying clout to block these corporate unions that would almost certainly hurt its constituents. You might be surprised by AARP’s answer.

Here’s a condensed version of Voth’s letter to AARP. Now bear in mind that Voth isn’t some guy off the street. He’s a dues-paying member of the organization.

When any airline mergers are officially announced, I feel AARP needs to take a stand in opposition to them. Consumers will not benefit. Consolidation most likely will result in fewer choices, fewer flights, and higher fares. We will be paying more and getting less.

Mergers may result in short-term profits for shareholders, but they often mean long-term losses for consumers and workers. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, writing in BusinessWeek Viewpoint, February 15, 2008, says, “The merged carrier is never greater than the sum of its parts. It is always less, often much less.”

I agree with Mr. Oberstar.

Is there any history of the flying public benefiting as the result of an airline merger? I think not. Therefore, I urge AARP to take a stand in opposition to any proposed air carrier consolidation.

Two weeks later, Voth received the following reply:

Dear Mr. Voth:

Thank you for contacting AARP’s national office to express your views. We’re pleased to hear from you.

Your feedback is invaluable to AARP. The issues you raised are monitored and included in reports to our editors, program coordinators, and legislative analysts. Our Board of Directors and National Policy Council consult these reports when determining the future course of AARP.

Please know that we are constantly weighing policy options and exploring better ways to serve our members. We hope you’ll continue to take the time to share your ideas, concerns, and opinions with us.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your views. It’s truly the combined interest, energy, commitment, and passion of our 39 million members that gives AARP the power to make life better.


Member Communications

What does Voth think of the letter? “It’s similar to one I’d expect to get after writing to an elected federal official or to the federal government,” he told me.

It is, without a doubt, a form letter. But I’m not convinced that AARP has written off Voth and the thousands of other concerned members who would suffer from an airline merger. I think they’re waiting for Delta-Northwest to be announced before taking any action.

At least I hope so.

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