Travel agent testifies about possible airline merger

September 1, 2010 3:38:17 PM PDT
A Nevada travel agent who sued United and Continental airlines to block their merger testified in federal court in San Francisco today that she joined the case because she feared higher fares and reduced flights.

Jan Marie Brown of Carson City, Nev., is one of 49 people who filed an antitrust lawsuit in June seeking to stop the proposed combination of the nation's third- and fourth-largest airlines.

She testified in the second day of a hearing in which U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg is considering the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction blocking the merger.

Asked why she joined in the lawsuit, Brown said, "I feared, and I believe, that a bigger, stronger, more powerful airline will reduce flights, increase prices and reduce service."

Thomas Pier, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, asked Brown whether she agreed with a statement in which airline attorney Katherine Forrest claimed on Tuesday that the merger was virtually "irrelevant" to the 49 plaintiffs because it allegedly would have little effect on their lives.

"Absolutely not," Brown said.

"The merger is relevant not only because my business is selling tickets, but also because it is affecting to me as a consumer and traveler," Brown said.

Brown, who flew from Reno to San Francisco on United for her court appearance, said United has already reduced nonstop flights between the two cities from eight to four per day and said, "I wouldn't want to see any further reductions."

United and Continental CEOs Glenn Tilton and Jeff Smisek both testified on Tuesday and said the merger would enable the new airline to compete more effectively, but said they didn't expect it to lead to fare increases.

The hearing will end either today or Friday, and Seeborg will rule on whether to grant an injunction after receiving final briefs on Sept. 10.


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