Air Unfair

airplane

Credit: Christoph Niemann

Adjunct Professor Michael Levine likes to see airlines compete. After all, he helped deregulate the airline industry two decades ago before serving as an executive at three different carriers.

But Levine fears new consolidation may kill the competitive industry he helped create as an official at the Civilian Aeronautics Board. So he’s become a vocal critic of United and American Airlines’ proposed purchase of US Airways.

US Airways argues it must merge with a larger airline or go out of business. Levine warned a U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee in February that United and American are seeking to create “a fortress occupied by a big two.” He also testified about American’s purchase of TWA before the Senate’s Commerce Committee.

Levine said other airlines will find it difficult to keep up with the larger American and United. “They will entrench themselves as a big two and produce a competitive position for themselves that can’t be duplicated by anyone else,” he said.

Levine spent much of his career working for smaller competitors that would likely suffer if US Airways gets carved up. He served as CEO of now-defunct New York Air and vice president of Continental before joining Northwest Airlines as executive vice president in 1992. Posters depicting Northwest propeller planes hang on the walls of his Hauser Hall office.

In between airline stints, Levine also served as dean of Yale’s School of Management. Since coming to HLS in 1999, he’s taught courses on deregulation and international joint ventures.

Between airline mergers and California’s botched electric industry deregulation, Levine says recent events give him plenty to talk about in class.

“It’s giving deregulation a bad name,” he said.