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U.S. Clears Airlines in Pricing Probe Tied to Amtrak Crash

  • Transportation Department found no evidence of unfair rates
  • Allegations followed deadly Philadelphia derailment in 2015

U.S. regulators closed a probe of five of the largest airlines after finding no price gouging or unfair service changes following a deadly Amtrak crash in 2015 that shut down trains in the Northeast.

Investigators found that fares increased on some routes and decreased on others after the derailment and that there were “no unconscionable increases” of prices beyond normal levels, the Transportation Department said in a letter to the airlines posted on its website Wednesday.

American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and JetBlue Airways Corp. were part of the probe. The Transportation Department’s investigation covered 76 flight segments on 62 routes.

The inquiry is separate from a broader Justice Department probe into possible price collusion by American, Delta, United and Southwest, the four largest U.S. airlines. There have been no updates about the status of that effort, which began in July 2015 to examine whether airlines were cooperating on capacity decisions to maintain pricing power.

Eight people died and more than 200 were injured when the Amtrak train derailed on May 12, 2015, as it sped into a curve at speeds as high as 106 miles an hour, more than twice the limit. The crash occurred when the engineer at the controls was distracted by emergency radio transmissions and lost track of where he was on the route, the National Transportation Safety Board later found.

The Philadelphia accident left thousands of commuters looking for other forms of transportation between that city and New York. The government opened the pricing probe after consumers complained about irregular fares after the accident.

(An earlier version of this story corrected the day the Transportation Department’s letter was posted to its website.)

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