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Highlights

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 phased out the government's control over fares and service and allowed market forces to determine the price and level of domestic airline service in the United States. The intent was to increase competition and thereby lead to lower fares and improved service. In 2005, GAO reported on the tenuous finances of some airlines that have led to bankruptcy and pension terminations, in particular among those airlines that predated deregulation (referred to as legacy airlines). The House Report accompanying the 2006 Department of Transportation (DOT) Appropriation Act expressed concern about airline pension defaults and charged GAO with analyzing the impact of reregulating the airline industry on reducing potential pension defaults by airlines. GAO subsequently agreed to address the pension issue within a broad assessment of the airline industry since deregulation. Specifically, GAO is reporting on, among other things, (1) broad airline industry changes since deregulation, (2) fare and service changes since deregulation, and (3) whether there is evidence that reregulation of entry and fares would benefit consumers or the airline industry, or save airline pensions. DOT agreed with the conclusions in this report. GAO is making no recommendations in this report.

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