After a full year of servicing Western New York with low-cost fares, JetBlue Airlines is in Buffalo to stay, and U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer has plans to attract other bargain airlines to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Plans include a crackdown on predatory pricing and a moratorium on airline mergers.
"I am asking that the Department of Transportation go after predatory pricing. When a new airline comes in and the bigger airlines suddenly drop their prices, they put the little airline out of business and then raise their prices back up," Schumer said in a Sunday morning news conference. "This has not happened with JetBlue or Southwest, but it has happened with other airlines in Buffalo. and we have to change that.
"I want the Department of Transportation to put in really tough guidelines about predatory pricing and enforce them to the letter of the law."
The request for a delay on airline mergers comes after a proposal for United Airlines to buy USAirways, the possibility of Delta buying Continental and American's acquisition of TWA.
"We may end up with only three big airlines in all of America. That is going to mean higher prices for everyone," Schumer said, adding that the U.S. Justice Department needs to declare a moratorium "and lay out a blueprint of where we are going."
"When airlines were deregulated in 1978, it was supposed to create more competition," the New York Democrat said.
"How will these mergers create more competition? They would have so much monopoly power that they would squeeze all the others out of business. The Justice Department has the power to either stop these mergers or at least place some conditions on the mergers."
Schumer went on to say, "What we have learned here in Western New York is when a new low-cost carrier comes in like JetBlue and Southwest, the prices go down. When you leave it to the big six, the prices stay high. We want to see the low fares keep going."
According to Schumer, "JetBlue is going strong. They have taken on the big airlines and they have won."
The senator noted that since JetBlue arrived in Buffalo, the average fare to New York City from Buffalo has dropped by 58 percent.
"A Buffalo business traveler who buys a ticket at the last minute pays $206 round-trip. That is $300 less than the major carriers. A ticket two weeks in advance is $49 one-way," he said.
Schumer said just the presence of economy airlines such as JetBlue saved New Yorkers more than $18 million last year.
"We have to make sure the competition stays and increases," Schumer said. "We have to make sure that what JetBlue and Southwest Airlines have done for Western New York gets magnified as other airlines come in."