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Eastern Air Lines Inc. v. Civil Aeronautics Board

October 7, 1959


Author: Waterman

Before CLARK, Chief Judge, LUMBARD and WATERMAN, Circuit Judges.

WATERMAN, C. J.: Presented here for our decision are three separate petitions for review of orders of the Civil Aeronautics Board*fn1 arising out of the "Great Lakes - Southeast Service Case ."*fn2 These orders marked the culmination of an extensive hearing*fn3 on new route applications for service between points in a specified geographic area of the Middle West on the one hand and Florida on the other. The Board's ultimate decision, insofar as pertinent to this opinion, was as follows: Northwest Airlines was awarded a route between Miami and Chicago; the authority of Delta Air Lines was extended so as to permit Miami-Detroit service; and that of Capital Airlines*fn4 was extended so as to confer upon it authority to render service between Miami and the three cities of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo. Prior to these awards the route between Miami and Chicago was served by both Delta and Eastern Air Lines; Eastern offered the only singlecarrier service between Miami and the cities of Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh,*fn5 and between Miami and Buffalo there was no direct service. Petitioners are as follows: Eastern, which objects to all three awards; Capitol Airways,*fn6 an unsuccessful applicant for the Miami-Chicago and Miami-Detroit routes, which objects to the Board decision as to these routes; and the City of Nashville, Tennessee, which objects to the fact that the Board drew the geographical boundaries of the "area proceeding" in such a manner that service to and from Nashville was excluded from consideration.


Eastern's primary contention is that the Board has violated the principle of Ashbacker Radio Corp. v. FCC, 326 U.S. 327 (1945) in failing to consolidate in this "Great Lakes-Southeast Service Case " an Eastern application for extension of its route authority from Chicago to Minneapolis/St. Paul so that this extension application would be considered along with the proposals by the other carriers for new service between Chicago and Miami. By its consolidation order E-9734, issued November 16, 1955, the Board eliminated from consideration in the proceeding all applications for service to areas north and west of Chicago. Eastern points out that, under the award here objected to, Northwest, which was previously certificated for service between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago, will now be permitted to conduct direct service between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Miami.*fn7 Eastern further points out that its application for extension from Chicago to Minneapolis/St. Paul, filed eight years before Northwest's application for Chicago-Miami authority and contemplating exactly the same Miami-Minneapolis/St. Paul service as the Board has here awarded Northwest, was not given simultaneous, comparative consideration. Eastern contends that certification of Northwest for Miami-Minneapolis/St. Paul service will as a matter of economic fact preclude certification of Eastern for that same service. Thus Eastern contends that the Board's procedure has violated the Ashbacker principle.*fn8

Ashbacker Radio Corp. v. FCC, supra, involved two applications for the construction of radio stations. The stations planned to operate at the same frequency and were located in cities less than fifty miles apart. The Federal Communications Commission found that these two applications as a matter of physical fact were mutually exclusive and thereupon granted one application without hearing and relegated the second to a hearing to be held later. The Supreme Court reversed the Commission, holding, as a matter of statutory construction, that two mutually exclusive applications must be granted a concurrent hearing. Although Ashbacker dealt only with physical exclusivity its doctrine soon found its way into aeronautical law, and was applied to applications for the same routes which were mutually exclusive "as a matter of eonomic fact." Northwest Airlines v. CAB (D.C. Cir. 1952), 194 F.2d 339; Delta Air Lines v. CAB (D.C. Cir. 1955), 228 F.2d 17. See also Seaboard & Western Airlines (D.C. Cir. 1949), 181 F.2d 777, Western Air Lines v. CAB (9 Cir. 1950), 184 F.2d 545.

On the other hand, it also seems clear that although a given award may adversely affect competitors' applications for other routes, this possible adverse effect of itself does not create an Ashbacker situation. Rather mutual exclusivity must be established. In this and other area proceedings, when faced with the protests of carriers who have applied for routes outside the geographic limits of the Board's consolidation order, the Board has adhered to the practice of permitting these carriers to intervene and contest the issue of mutual exclusivity. This procedure was expressly approved in National Airlines v. CAB, 249 F.2d 13 (D.C. Cir. 1957). It was followed scrupulously in the present case. Eastern was afforded an ample opportunity to present evidence on the issue of exclusivity. It presented none.*fn9 This failure to make any showing of mutual exclusivity is fatal to Eastern's Ashbacker contentions. The cases which have dealt with this problem clearly suggest that it is incumbent upon the applicant asserting mutual exclusivity to substantiate the claim before the agency. Delta Air Lines v. CAB, supra; National Air Lines v. CAB, supra . We hold that in an area proceconsolidation order, and does not submit evidence in support of his objection, the agency may treat the objection as not having been made.

Second, Eastern points to three instances that it claims are such departures from orderly administrative procedure as to vitiate the Board's action. Eastern's contentions, which will be discussed in turn, relate to (1) a "press release" announcing the Board's tentative decision and released six months before the Board's opinion; (2) participation by assistants of Board members at Board meetings in which tentative awards were made; (3) receipt by the Board immediately prior to oral argument of alleged ex parte representations concerning an equipment program commenced by Capital Airlines, the carrier ultimately awarded authority between the cities of Miami and Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

Pursuant to a policy begun at some time more than two years ago, the Board, approximately tow months after the completion of oral argument, issued a "press release" announcing the route awards it was granting in the Great Lakes-Southeast Service Case . The press release expressly stated that the announcement of the awards did not constitute decisions in the case but that decisions would be entered and issued later. We construe this language to mean that the announced awards did not constitute final determinations but were tentative only, and that there were to be no definitive awards until the issuance of the Board's formal opinion.*fn10 The awards conferred by the Board's formal opinion, however, coincided exactly with those announced in the previous press release. Eastern claims that in effect this practice amounts to a prejudgment, in that the opinion, written six months subsequently, represents nothing more than a rationalization of conclusions previously reached; and that, therefore, the opinion is a nullity even if otherwise legally sufficient. We do not mean to express approval of the Board's practice of making public its tentative decisions. We only indicate that Eastern's claim of prejudgment is unsound. Eastern does not contend that the interval between the completion of oral argument and the Board's tentative decision was so short that it precluded thoughtful consideration of the evidence presented. Moreover, if the careful marshaling of facts required in drafting an opinion should have indicated that a different decision was proper, the tentative decision announced in the press release need not have prevented the Board from reaching a different decision. Hence we hold that the press release procedure did not deny Eastern a fair hearing.

Eastern objects to two of the Board's subsidiary awards*fn11 for the reason that at the tentative votes on these awards two assistants to Board members participated in place of their respective superiors.*fn12 However, leaving aside the fact that these votes were merely tentative, we note that the votes in question were cast only after two days of discussion by the Board when all of its members were present, and that the votes later cast by the assistants were cast in compliance with instructions given by their superiors. Accordingly, we find no improper delegation; and, assuming such right to exist, we find no deprivation of an applicant's right to joint deliberation upon his application by the Board members before vote is had upon it.

Eastern contends that the Board must have considered information in its hands relating to an equipment acquisition program announced by Capital three days prior to commencement of oral argument before the Board as bearing upon the issues here, and therefore Eastern was unfairly prejudiced since this information was not part of the record in the case. More specifically, Eastern objects to Capital's wide circulation of a press release relating to the equipment program and, branding this an effort to bring improper pressure upon the Board, Eastern demands that the record be reopened to determine Capital's fitness. In addition, Eastern claims that its was unfairly prejudiced because the manufacturer from whom Capital proposed to purchase its equipment communicated to the Board just prior to the beginning of oral argument the details of the proposed purchase. The Board assures us that the decision to award Capital the Miami-Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh route was uninfluenced by the announcement of Capital's equipment acquisition program. We have no reason to doubt this representation. The communication to the Board by the manufacturer was not improper, for such information was relevant to Board functions unconnected with the Great Lakes-Southeast Service Case .*fn13 See Van Curler Broadcasting Corp. v. United States, 236 F.2d 727, 730 (D.C. Cir. 1956), cert. denied, 352 U.S. 935. There is no indication that Capital made any covert communications to members of the Board, and hence the recent case of WKAT v. FCC, 258 F.2d 418 (D.C. Cir. 1958), is inapposite.

Finally, Eastern contends that, as to the following matters, the Board has failed to make appropriate findings or has failed to support its findings with substantial evidentiary findings: inadequacy of existing service; advantages purported to result from competitive authorizations; sufficiency of various markets to support additional carriers; and insubstantiality of Eastern's loss of revenues resulting from new authorizations.

As to the first two matters, the recent case of FCC v. RCA Communications, 346 U.S. 86 (1953), is controlling. The Court there indicated that an agency's determination that competition in and of itself was a desirable objective would be upheld provided that the agency based its determination upon its own expert knowledge of the industry under its control rather than on some general notion of national policy. In the present case the Board did determine that increased competition on air routes was desirable when there was sufficient traffic.*fn14 Therefore, further findings with respect to inadequacy of service, or benefits to be derived from competition, are unnecessary. We have examined the Board's findings on size of market and diversion and have found these findings adequately stated and supported by substantial evidence.*fn15 See Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474 (1951); Colorado Wyoming Gas Co. v. FPC, 324 U.S. 626 (1945).

We have examined Eastern's other contentions and have found them to ...

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