Airline mergers are in the news this year. First, Frontier and Spirit announced their partnership back in February. Then, just last week JetBlue announced its bid to buy Spirit. All this talk of airline mergers leads to a great question – do airline mergers benefit travelers? Here’s the tea.

Will a merger make service levels better for air travelers?

It’s hard to say. Theoretically, if a large airline known for terrific customer service buys a smaller airline that’s known to offer low prices without much else, you would think that the merger might be a good thing. After all, wouldn’t this merger make the smaller airline more like the bigger, nicer-to-customers airline? Perhaps.

What happens to an airline brand that customers love when there is a merger?

Oftentimes, nothing great. When Virgin America merged with Alaska Air in the not-so-distant past, the Virgin brand simply went away. And loads of loyal travelers were super upset by this fact. After all, Virgin America was cool – it had mood lighting, extremely popular low-cost upgrades to a cushy first class ticket, and just general panache. The way less cool Alaska Air swooped in and killed the brand so many folks were loyal to for many years. Not great for those customers at all. And Alaska didn’t incorporate anything from the Virgin America business model into their existing fleet either.

Will an airline merger cause prices to go down for air travelers?

That does sound like it could be a reasonable expectation for passengers. When airlines pool resources, the stated reason is often to help lower overall operational costs. But, somehow, strangely (or maybe not so strangely), airline mergers rarely lead to lowered costs for passengers. The airlines, after all, are in the business of making money, not saving passengers cash. So while a merger may lead to lowered operational costs for the airline – it’s not likely to pass those savings onto those of us who fly.

What can happen if you happen to book a flight in the middle of an airline merger?

Well, the impact you might feel on an individual ticket is slim to none. The airlines are pretty good at keeping the logistics out of the way. You might book a ticket on one airline and then show up to find another airline operating the flight. But other than cosmetic and procedural changes to boarding and the airline flight crew, you probably won’t notice it much at all.

What can you do to get a good deal on airfare at a time when a merger could be happening?

There’s no golden ticket to a good price these days. You should book your flights based on the amenities and features of that flight that you prefer. If price is your deal breaker, just make sure you do an apples to apples comparison when you’re doing a flight search. The one we have on shows you everything included and all of the fees for each fare so there are no surprises.

Then shop early and often to pin down a “good” price. You can also use our annual airfare report to identify the best time to shop for a well-priced ticket. Then, after you buy, you can take advantage of Price Drop Payback if the fare goes down after you pay. We will credit you up to $100 per ticket in this situation.

So to wrap up, while it would be nice you simply can’t depend on a merger to save you money. The tried and true shopping methods are a much better strategy. Here’s to happy travels!

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