Certainly, the DOJ has a role in protecting American citizens from price fixing. But when it comes to providing documents, meeting deadlines, answering subpoenas, complying with requests, respecting contempt findings, cooperating with investigators and taking responsibility for its actions, the airlines will not need to do much work to live up to the example set by this DOJ and the administration it represents. Indeed, the airlines should consider telling the DOJ that the emails have been erased, hard drives destroyed, document handling rules forgotten, witnesses are unavailable and the Fifth Amendment will be employed. If this doesn't work, they can tell the DOJ that everything was caused by two rogue employees in Cincinnati and a bad video. If the investigation is still in the news after this, they can tell the DOJ that all internal investigations (not provided to the public) are complete and there is not a "smidgeon" of corruption.
In the Barrons article under headlines on the Yahoo board, Stifel's Joe Denardi addresses the concern that the DOJ investigation will make the airlines less willing to trim capacity in Q4. He says "what makes us somewhat comfortable that the investigation will not have an impact is that the forward capacity data is publicly available through published schedules, which supports the view that airlines are not signaling one another but instead developing their schedules independently."
The New York Times reported today that American Airlines said it would cooperate with the investigation but disputed any notion that the mergers had restrained competition. "We welcome the review as the data shows that the industry remains highly competitive with more people flying than ever before," the airline said in a statement. "Demand has been enabled by a robust and competitive marketplace in which capacity has been added and average fares have decreased." Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported today that American Airlines said "We will co-operate fully with the investigation and demonstrate that the last two years have presented an entirely new competitive landscape that has greatly benefited air travel consumers." Quoting Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, the FT said the DOJ's potential case was civil rather than criminal, and would consequently be easier to prove. Companies facing antitrust suits of the kind the DOJ investigation could produce often reach settlements with the government, pay fines and agree to restraints.
A recent article in the Financial Times (Oil price poses little risk for aerospace manufacturers, June 12) says that as the cost of fueling falls, some airlines have shifted their priorities away from efficiency. Leasing companies are able to sign long leases for aircraft that are 15 years and older, when it was previously hard to find anything other than very short-term leases. It gives the example of Delta, which has been far slower than AAl, UAL and LUV to introduce more fuel-efficient aircraft. But with the fall of fuel prices, Delta not only faces far lower "outgoings" on aircraft purchases than its rivals, but also fuel bills that are far lower than had been feared for it older aircraft. It says the Delta example shows the fall in fuel prices makes it both more viable to add capacity and more profitable to operate flights with older, less efficient aircraft. Don't know how much if any of this entered into AAl's decision, which AAL said was to "gain capacity flexibility."