Most years, choosing the biggest story of the past 12 months is an agonizing process, with a slew of events contending for the title.
This year, for me, it was no contest.
The winner: the American-US Airways merger. It was a wild ride, with a sad but predictable ending whose ramifications will be felt for years to come.
There was the drama surrounding what began as a hostile takeover, with American initially dismissing US Airways’ merger proposal as pathetically inappropriate.
But Doug Parker, US Airways’ canny chief, backed American into a corner, eventually forcing the much larger airline to put on a public display of enthusiasm for a deal which can only have been the bitterest of pills.
There was the unsavory spectacle of the Department of Justice, supposedly the champion of travelers’ best interests, succumbing to political pressure and allowing the deal to proceed with the merest gloss of concessions to significant antitrust concerns.
And, not least, there is the forward-looking question: How will this latest bit of industry consolidation affect airfares and service levels, now that 80 percent of the country’s domestic air service is controlled by just four airlines?
My expectation is that consumers will come to rue the tie-up as a negative turning point, when prices began rising and service began declining.
Perhaps that will be the biggest story for 2014.
Reader Reality Check
What’s your pick for the year’s biggest travel story?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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