William & Mary Business Law Review


Erica Wessling


The relatively short history of the airline industry is characterized by sudden shifts and divergent standards that attempt to negotiate a complex market. High demand, uniqueness of service, and difficulty of market entry render the market particularly susceptible to monopolization among competitors. Recently, the rise of the low-cost carrier business model has exposed high barriers to entry into the airline market. In attempts to remedy the harm against both prospective market entrants and consumers, lowcost carriers have levied price predation claims against entrenched legacy airlines. Due to the difficulty in negotiating the divide between predatory behavior and lawful competition, courts have been justifiably reticent to penalize carriers for competitive pricing of passenger fare. However, despite the likely legality of the pricing structure of incumbent airlines, other exclusionary practices, such as gate monopolization, fortify high barriers to entry and highlight the need for a shift in judicial and regulatory standards. Through analysis of the decision in Spirit Airlines, Inc. v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., this Note analyzes antitrust issues within the helpful framework of contestability theory and considers judicial and regulatory changes to benefit new entrant airlines and consumers.