Two Myrtle Beach airlines affected by merger

Myrtle Beach, SC - By Brandon Herring - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines will create the world's largest passenger carrier, and it will affect two of the air carriers currently offering service at Myrtle Beach International Airport.

Many customers worry less competition could result in higher prices for flights. According to research from the U.S. General Accounting Office, a non-partisan research service, a merger could cause a price increase on routes where both companies currently fly.

From Myrtle Beach, United flies to Chicago-O'Hare, and Continental flies to Newark, NJ. Since the airlines do not currently compete head-to-head on routes from Myrtle Beach, prices may not be affected.

Airline Traveler Tangela Shelton still has worries about travel in other areas.

"They're charging us fees for baggage and certain things that are going on," Shelton said. "I'm just hoping the rates don't go up."

Travel analyst Rick Seaney with said prices may go up nationally, but the merger likely will not be the cause.

"I think fares in the long run will go up," Seaney said. "They have no place to go but up, because last year at this time, they were the lowest in decades. So they're going to go up anyway."

Research also shows another common concern may happen because of the merger. Once the airlines merge, they may combine flights to places they both currently fly. That could mean customers have fewer options. Again in Myrtle Beach though, the merged United is likely to keep the current flights because they go to different cities.

United flights out of Myrtle Beach may only be affected if the new airline eventually decides to move out of the O'Hare or Newark hubs. Officials say that is unlikely though, because Continental is the largest carrier out of Newark, and the merged airline will not have an obvious alternative to O'Hare.

Traveler Tami Schexnayer said she looks forward to the merger because she believes the increased size of United will offer more options to customers.

"I like to see competition between airlines, but I think having a larger airline will allow all consumers to fly with more direct flights to places, and it'll increase the opportunities for flights," Schexnayer said. "They're going to have to offer good service to the customers in order for the customers to fly with them because there are still competitors."

Travel and economics expert Gary Loftus with Coastal Carolina University said the merger could also benefit the Myrtle Beach area because a stronger airline is more like to stay in the area.

Copyright 2010 WMBF News. All rights reserved.