Act I was the dance between United Airlines and Continental Airlines and Act II is about to open on this political theatre as the Senate Commerce Committee scheduled hearings for Thursday into the proposed merger.
During the merger announcement last month, Continental CEO, Jeff Smisek, said the airlines expected approval by the Department of Justice by year’s end, adding that the merger was "built to pass". But they may not have counted on such a hostile environment in Washington, that has already seen the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, James Oberstar, condemn not only the merger but also their previous successful bid to gain anti-trust immunity for their joint venture. Mr Oberstar was joined by Senate and House Republicans in condemning the United-Continental deal citing concerns over the fact that the headquarters of the combined entity will be in Chicago not Houston.
Senate Committee on Science Commerce and Transportation Chairman, John Rockefeller IV, will convene hearings on Thursday into "The Financial State of the Airline Industry and the Implications of Consolidation". The group will consider the financial state of the airline industry and implications of consolidation.
On the heels of the morning hearing will be another by the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights that afternoon which will cover the consumer implications of the merger.
Stay tuned for Act III.