In airline merger war, Pa. official sides with Pittsburgh, not Philly

Joseph N. DiStefano / Inquirer Staff Writer

American Airlines has been trying to move in with US Airways so that, as one big airline, it can make more money (or lose less) than the two have been collecting as separate, formerly bankrupt companies. Who will this help?

-- The people who run Philadelphia say this is good for us. Mayor Nutter says the airline workforce here would greatly benefit. Rob Wonderling, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, expects "more nonstop flights to more markets" through Philly. At a pro-merger rally in Washington in September, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., Pa.), a former federal prosecutor, pronounced the combination fair. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) said it "would strengthen Philadelphia as an international city."

-- But Pittsburgh is worried. The city is home to a US Airways maintenance facility, which the combined airlines might close as they cut costs. US Airways won't promise to keep it open. And US Airways' "failure to deliver on its promises" in previous mergers would make it hard to trust even if it did promise this time, Rich Fitzgerald, executive of Allegheny County, told the city's business weekly last summer. He has repeated the complaint to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Kane has lined up with Pittsburgh, and President Obama's Justice Department, to oppose the merger. Her office says she and her fellow AGs in other states have sifted much evidence and found the deal will be bad for workers and consumers. Asked to review that evidence, her spokesman called it "attorney work product" and said it's secret. 

That might do for prosecutors. But it's an odd way to justify public policy. At least show your work. -- From my column in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer.