Dollars And Sense, Antitrust Lobbying And LaHood

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Reports are in on first-quarter lobbying monies spent by airlines and industry interest groups and the results show airlines spend millions ... sometimes working against pilot groups. In the mix are Continental, which spent $810,000, and American, which spent $1.5 million. American's pilot union, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), spent $140,000 lobbying the new administration. Among Continental's interests, the airline is seeking antitrust immunity that would allow it to work with other airlines to set pricing and schedules. Continental's first-quarter lobbying budget was more than twice what it spent in the previous quarter. American has similar interests. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood conveyed his position to reporters earlier this month saying, "These alliances are lifesavers for airlines." Meanwhile, the APA is pushing the Obama administration to pursue violations of antitrust law, citing the Department of Justice, which issued a statement that antitrust enforcers "can no longer sit on the sidelines" and that antitrust laws "benefit consumers."

American Airlines' application for antitrust immunity remains open to public comment. Online comments from some pilots suggest they believe alliances would actually create a stronger airline with more growth and job opportunity. That position may be influenced by the existence of other international alliances between other airlines that some pilots argue make American less competitive as other airlines working in cooperation with foreign carriers expand their international routes.