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If you want to understand why the U.S. Department of Justice is playing hardball over the pending American Airlines/US Airways Group merger, consider Detroit. The Motor City once harbored hub dreams and built a new Detroit Metro airport to fulfill that desire. Then, you know, the U.S. auto industry wrecked along with the rest of the economy. And airlines went bust before autos, sending Northwest, Detroit’s home team, into the arms of Delta, another bankrupt. Detroit Metro got downgraded to a spoke rather than a hub and lost a ton of flights, which has made it, paradoxically, a very pleasant place to travel to and from.
Today the city of Detroit may be broke but with the auto industry cranking again Metro is a lot busier—and dominated by dominant, post-consolidation legacy airlines. One result: when I needed to book a trip to Motown with a week’s notice…
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