Things That Don’t Make Sense, Airline Edition

We now interrupt our global crisis programming to bring you news from the rest of the economy . . .

Earlier today, the Department of Justice approved the merger of Delta and Northwest, which I believe closed later this evening. In its statement, the Antitrust Division blessed the merger, saying:

the proposed merger between Delta and Northwest is likely to produce substantial and credible efficiencies that will benefit U.S. consumers and is not likely to substantially lessen competition. . . .

Consumers are also likely to benefit from improved service made possible by combining under single ownership the complementary aspects of the airlines’ networks.

Now, for literally years, every expert on the airline industry has been saying that the industry needs less competition, less capacity, and higher prices (bad for consumers), and consolidation is the way to achieve that end. Put another way, if Delta and Northwest actually believed the DOJ’s statement, they wouldn’t have bothered merging in the first place.

I’m not saying that the DOJ should have blocked the merger – not being an expert on the airline industry (although I am an expert on flying on airlines), I defer to those who say mergers are necessary for the health of the industry. But since when did the DOJ become their PR firm?