Mergers: A clock is ticking

Merger talk is getting lots of play these days in the States, even when airline execs bring it up just to shoot it down. Even a polite rhetorical nod (consolidation or merger “might have some benefits,” as 050407Clinton.jpg Delta’s Richard Anderson said, more as a courtesy than a real invite) sets off spasms of speculation. Veterans of the last round of mergers have been sceptical, noting the tremendous barriers to consolidation that exist: labour, finances, route-system overlap, technical differences, possible regulatory objections. Whoa, wait, what regulatory objections? The Republicans run Washington, and they haven’t objected to a merger since Laurel and Hardy got together. But not for long, and that’s why if anything does happen, it will happen between now and January 2009, when the next president is inaugurated. And odds are, she won’t be a Republican. The Democrats tend to be pretty tough on mergers and other combinations: they shot down the United Airlines/US Airways proposal in 2000, and they’re the same guys who tried to break up the Two Ronnies and the Hardy Boys. And just as coincidentally as the picture nearby, Friday is Senator Hillary Clinton’s sixtieth birthday. Just a coincidence.

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