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Looming airline mergers would downgrade service

There’s a common feature of the two airline merger proposals currently in the news, US Airways’ bid for Delta and AirTran’s for Midwest.

And no, it’s not that both are hostile takeover attempts, unwanted and unwelcome by the airlines on the receiving ends of the purchase offers.

Rather, in both cases, the would-be buyer is a discount carrier. And both target companies are full-service carriers.

While tarnished in recent years, Delta’s legacy is as an airline that brimmed with southern hospitality. And Midwest was known for delivering pretty well on its marketing slogan, “The Best Care in the Air.”

So, to use an analogy from the automotive field, we’re seeing the buyouts of the Mercedes by the Hondas.

It may be that the best chances for long-term survival of Delta and Midwest lie in their being acquired by discount operators and reinvented along the lines of the low-cost model. But partisans of the current Delta and Midwest are right to be concerned about their airlines’ future in the event they’re acquired by their current suitors.

After all, if you’re used to driving a Mercedes, moving to a Honda can only be considered a downgrade.

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