BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Are major airlines ganging up on customers to keep air fares high? The Department of Justice launched an investigation including Southwest, American and United airlines.

Tracey Leong has the latest.

Could major airlines be conspiring to send ticket prices soaring?

“Definitely a possibility,” said traveler Kareemah Muhammad. “Doesn’t sound like something they wouldn’t do.”

“Everyone has got to make a profit,” said traveler Keith Kieliszak.

American, Southwest, United and Delta received letters from the Department of Justice. American says they asked for documents and information from the last two years related to statements and decisions about airline capacity.

Federal prosecutors are trying to determine if airlines conspired to limit seats, making airfares go sky high.

While it’s unclear which airlines are being investigated, this isn’t the first time the four major ones have been questioned about their high prices.

“They have known each other’s airfares. They are all out there for everyone to see and they typically set them at the same rate,” said Joshua Schank, Eno Center for Transportation.

Schank says this does not necessarily mean there was collusion—but many are unhappy with the airline industry overall.

“A concern among consumers and industry analysts: the industry is becoming less competitive because of the level of consolidation we’ve seen,” Schank said.

With four mergers since 2008, these airlines control nearly 80% of seats on US planes.

“For them to make the profit and it not benefiting us at all is a problem,” said traveler Allen Edwards. “A big problem.”

An industry spokesperson says, “It is customers who decide pricing and our members compete vigorously every day and the traveling public has been the beneficiary.”

The average airfare price has gone up more than 13% from 2009 to 2015, leading to record profits.

These record profits for airlines does not even include the extra fees to check bags or change a reservation, which totals an extra $6.6 billion just in the past year.


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