FLYERS in the United States are often frustrated by the dearth of options on certain routes, and the high price of tickets that are the result of limited competition. After several high-profile mergers in recent years, more than 80% of the domestic air market is controlled by four companies. That has led some travellers to ask how the government could possibly have allowed this to happen.

The answer is the same one that explains so many beguiling aspects of American governance: the combination of money, lobbying, influence, and the political revolving door that often makes it so easy for powerful companies to get their way.

A new investigation by ProPublica delves deeply into the complex web of meetings, donations, and hirings that surrounded the tie-up between American Airlines and US Airways. Three years ago, the administration of Barack Obama filed a lawsuit against the merger, alleging that it would raise prices and fees, cut service, and worsen amenities. Three months later, it reversed course, settling with the airlines and allowing the merger to move…Continue reading