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Wed, Sep 29, 2010

Ohio's Attorney General To Review SWA's Plan To Purchase AirTran

Antitrust Review Will  Focus On Effect Of Transaction On Price, Flight Availability In Ohio

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray pledged Tuesday to open a preliminary review of Southwest Airlines' announced acquisition of AirTran Airways. Both Southwest and AirTran, respectively the nation's largest and eighth largest carriers by passenger count, are major airline operators in Ohio: AirTran currently flies out of the Port Columbus International Airport, Akron-Canton Airport and Dayton International Airport; Southwest flies out of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Port Columbus.

"We are going to undertake a careful review of this deal," Cordray said. "These are significant carriers that provide important services to Ohio travelers and businesses - for instance, AirTran alone accounts for slightly more than half of the passengers at the Akron-Canton Airport. We are going to examine whether this deal would make those services more expensive or less available."

Cordray's decision to open a preliminary review of this transaction comes on the heels of his office's antitrust investigation into the merger between Continental and United airlines. The result, announced earlier this month, was an agreement between the Attorney General's office and United that the newly-configured airline maintain departure levels at Cleveland Hopkins Airport - which is currently a Continental hub - for at least the next five years.

Cordray emphasized that the Southwest/AirTran review is preliminary, but it could lead to a full investigation involving other states, as was the case in the Continental-United merger.

"After the Continental-United investigation was completed, I heard from a business owner in the Cleveland area who thanked my office for getting involved because, if air service at Hopkins was cut back, he said he probably would have to move his business," Cordray said. "Access to competitively priced air travel is vital to Ohio's long-term economic health, and I am committed to fighting for that access whenever I can."

The Antitrust section of the Ohio Attorney General's office enforces state and federal antitrust law. In so doing, it works to protect a marketplace where businesses compete to provide the best prices and services to consumers. It also operates the Antitrust Review Program, which seeks to protect taxpayers from anti-competitive activity in public projects. Cordray is the co-chair of the Antitrust Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General.

FMI: www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/ContinentalUnitedMerger

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