WASHINGTON — US Airways and American Airlines workers from 30 states rallied on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, urging Congress to block a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against the planned merger of the two airlines.
Hundreds of pilots, flight attendants and other airline workers gathered on the Capitol lawn, chanting and holding signs that read, “Let us compete together.”
“We’re here to drum up support,” said Jennifer Hutt, a Phoenix-based flight attendant and flight attendant trainer for US Airways.
Workers like Hutt spread out across the Hill to talk with lawmakers. A US Airways spokeswoman said the airlines’ employees expected to visit the offices of all 11 members of Arizona’s delegation, but could not say which were talked to personally.
The long-discussed merger of Tempe-based US Airways and Fort Worth-based American Airlines, currently in bankruptcy, would create the nation’s largest airline.
The new company would be called American Airlines and would be based in Fort Worth, but US Airways officials have insisted they will maintain a strong presence in Tempe and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Airline officials have said the merger would actually be good for competition.
But the Justice Department in August sued to block the merger, saying it would reduce competition and drive up prices for consumers. The antitrust suit was joined by attorneys general from many states, including Arizona.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but had said in an August statement that the merger would be bad for consumers and workers in Arizona.
Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, has long said the merger will do nothing but hurt consumers. In Arizona, for example, he said the merger would leave Southwest Airlines as the top airline at Sky Harbor, which will be good for Southwest, but not for the state’s economy.
Leocha said the merger would give “executives a pay raise, unions a pay raise, and the consumers will lose.”
But Hutt said it is not fair that the Justice Department is getting involved now, after letting mergers of Delta and Northwest airlines or United and Continental go through.
Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Phoenix, told the rally that he usually agrees with the Obama administration, but was surprised when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder filed this antitrust lawsuit.
“I’ve supported U.S. Attorney Holder and the majority of his attempts,” Pastor said. “But I got to tell you, on this one he’s wrong.”
He encouraged Holder to meet with leaders of both airlines and negotiate a settlement before a scheduled Nov. 25 hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
If the government will get out of the way, this merger will not only be good but relatively easy, said Stacy Santimaw, a US Airways flight attendant based in Phoenix.
Santimaw started her career 30 years ago with America West Airlines, which merged with US Airways in 2005. That merger took a long time because the unions and employee associations could not agree on labor issues.
“They learned from their mistakes and have already agreed on a lot of the issues,” Santimaw said of the current proposal.
“I’ve been through one bankruptcy, one merger, and we feel this merger will be much smoother,” she said.
- Affordable small home makeovers for Mother's Day
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon
- What you need to know about Alzheimer's disease in Arizona
- Spring clean your windows like a pro with these 8 tips
- 7 films that should have won best-picture Oscars
- New plumbing technology saves money and improves your home
- Survey shows Arizona CFOs optimistic about 2016
- How chronic pain can affect your love life