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"Small US communities join coalition to lobby for air service"



Thursday, December 21, 2000

Small US communities join coalition to lobby for extra services
M2 Communications


The city of Augusta, Georgia in the USA is reportedly considering membership
of a group that has been established to help smaller communities attract
more airlines.

The Global Aviation Improvement Network was established by Terry Branstad,
the former governor of Iowa, in June and attempts to unite community
leaders, businesses and other organisations in smaller communities to lobby
for greater access to aviation networks. The eventual aim of the coalition
is to get legislation drawn up that will benefit smaller airports, as well
as to get funding for the upgrade of smaller airports, Reuters reported.

Many travellers flying from smaller communities to major cities often have
to pay more when their flight goes via a major airport such as Atlanta, with
the alternative being to travel an hour to another city where they can avoid
the higher charges.

Augusta is apparently just one of many considering joining the coalition.


Here's another view of the same story ...

Monday, December 18, 2000

The UA/US Merger - Going Grass Roots
The United/US Airways merger continues to slide into trouble
By Micheal Boyd
The Boyd Group/ASRC Evergreen, Colorado


One of the easiest ways to see this is by watching the desperate fruitcake
efforts on the part of United and US Airways to convince the public that
more is less. One was the DC Air foolishness. Then came the fear tactics of
implying loss of air service if US Air doesn't merge. Now comes a new
tactic: use of a Trojan Horse organization to claim that the merger is a
step to fixing air service problems at small airports..

This is something called GAIN - Global Aviation Improvement Network. Founded
by former Republican governor Terry Branstad of Iowa, the goal of GAIN
(which sounds more like a washday product than a advocacy group) is
allegedly to give small airports the clout they need in Washington to get
more air service. If they all band together, the argument goes, they can
force Washington into somehow giving them more flights to more places.

Sounds like yet another misguided but harmless Children's Crusade to smote
the Big Airline Evil. But on closer view, it's very different.

According to an article in the Fresno Bee, GAIN claims, "by improving air
service, cities such as Fresno, Des Moines, Rockford, Charlotte, and Erie
will get more jobs." Okay. But the underlying assumptions are: a) these
cities are underserved now, and b) all it'll take is Washington waving its
magic wand to get more flights.

Both assumptions are not only faulty, but in light of the group's reported
industry support, the real objectives of the organization appear to be just
a little questionable.

Branstad and his group, while claiming that they want "more air service"
also unabashedly support the United/US Airways merger. Worse, according to
the news report, the organization is at least partially backed by United
Airlines. You remember, United - the airline whose proposed merger will
reduce competition at small airports? The Governor thinks this is a great
idea. Wonder why.

In terms of being uninformed, amateur, and downright laughable, GAIN ranks
right up there with last year's "Proposition RJ" foolishness. The Governor
and his group are parading around the nation, promising things they can't
deliver and speaking to problems they don't understand. Worse, they're also
being Trojan-Horsed by United Airlines.

Just a little disingenuous. Governor Branstad is trying to mislead small
airports into supporting a merger that will hurt every one of the cities
mentioned. Every one. Some more, some less.

Charlotte? Underserved? The local traffic base there is just 20% of the
airport's enplanements, yet it now has over 100 nonstop destinations. While
the situation at CLT won't change much with a merger, the fact is that
consumers there will still lose one competitive choice, and, despite what
United is saying, there are no long-term guarantees that the merged airline
will actually grow CLT. Or give it "one-stop" flights to Asia, either.

Erie? The United/US Airways merger eliminates one entire competing airline
system that ERI could eventually recruit. That's not good, except maybe to a
politician.

Rockford. Here's the real hoot. United, far from supporting RFD, actually
works against the community by contracting scheduled busses to take
passengers away from the local airport on a 76-mile traffic-congested ride
to O'Hare. United has no intention of "improving" air service at Rockford.

The UA/US merger is not dead. But its Washington support is declining, its
media coverage is increasingly negative, and several states have now come
out four square against the deal. So watch for more of United's dual
strategy of going grass-roots to airports and small communities, on one hand
using fear (US Air will die without this merger, and you'll have no
service!) and on the other alluding to (but not committing to) improvements
that probably won't come.

Again, the best guess now is that when these efforts fail, the last resort
will be to offer to spin off more parts of the combined carriers. How that
will sort out is uncertain.

What is certain is that the deal, however structured, is a bad one for the
consumer.

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