DOJ: News Release

McGrath Responds to USDOJ Approval of Northwest-Delta Merger

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath today reacted to the news that the U.S. Department of Justice will not challenge the merger of Delta and Northwest Airlines.

Wednesday, the USDOJ Antitrust Division announced its approval of the proposed merger between the two airlines. After a six-month investigation, the USDOJ concluded that the merger “likely will result in efficiencies such as cost savings in airport operations, information technology, supply chain economics, and fleet optimization that will benefit consumers.”

Delta and Northwest are the first- and second-largest passenger airlines serving Montana.

“Fares to travel to and from Montana are already among the highest in the country, and with rising fuel prices and a declining economy, this isn’t good news for Montana consumers,” McGrath said.

The USDOJ also said the two airlines “compete with a number of other legacy and low cost airlines… on the vast majority of nonstop and connecting routes where they compete with each other.”

McGrath noted that in smaller, more rural states, competition with low cost airlines simply doesn’t exist.

“In big markets that is true,” McGrath said. “But sadly, in Montana and in states like Montana, low-cost carriers are not an option. That type of competition just doesn’t happen here.”

McGrath said the Montana Department of Justice, in cooperation with other states, conducted its own investigation of the impact the merger would have on Montana’s airline passengers.

Combined, Delta and Northwest account for more than half of the passenger air traffic arriving and departing Montana’s seven major airports in Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, Kalispell, Great Falls, Helena and Butte. Delta’s Salt Lake City hub and Northwest’s hub in Minneapolis provide the majority of connecting flights to and from the Northeast and Southeast.

“Whether it’s for tourism or business or agriculture or education, access to affordable, timely airline service is vital to states like Montana,” McGrath said. “We had significant concerns about decreased service and increased prices.”

McGrath added, however, that he’s asked for and received assurances from Delta and Northwest that service to Montana communities will continue after the two airlines merge.

“We will continue to monitor the new airline,” he said, “and we expect Delta and Northwest to hold up their end of the deal.”

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