Jenkins: Finally, Airline Consolidation

By Holman W. Jenkins JR., The Wall Street Journal

Journalists and historians like to pretend otherwise, but presidencies are puddings with multiple themes plus a jumble of elements that don’t fit. One that doesn’t fit is President Obama’s presiding over a consolidation of the airline industry.

The dam began to crumble under the Bush administration, which came in blocking a proposed deal between United and USAir and went out having OK’ed a merger of Delta and Northwest. Under Mr. Obama, the dam appears to have burst for good. First his team approved United-Continental. An outlier, American, with high labor costs that it never tried to fix in bankruptcy, entered bankruptcy last year. Now American is being stalked by US Airways. Would the administration approve? You can probably count on it.

Cartels turn out not to be so unpopular with the administration as long as they are union-run cartels. Here, White House interests overlap with those of aviation capitalists, who have long craved consolidation but always ran headfirst into mostly Democratic politicians shouting “anticompetitive.

Who can forget the shooting down of United’s ill-fated pairing with USAir, whose review began in the Clinton administration and was nixed under Bush?

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