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What an American-US Airways merger means for you

Published February 14, 2013 6:48 pm

Travel • Combination will create a system on par with Delta, United.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

New York • Although American Airlines and US Airways have made official their plans to merge, it will be several months — if not years — before passengers see any significant impact.

Passengers with existing tickets on American or US Airways — and members of both frequent-flier programs — shouldn't fret. No changes will come anytime soon.

American's parent company, AMR Corp., is still under bankruptcy protection and will need the court to approve the deal. US Airways shareholders will also have to vote. Then the Department of Transportation and the Justice Department must sign off. Finally, once a deal closes, the new company could operate two separate airlines for a number of years.

When the airlines finally do merge, here's what passengers can expect:

Airfare • During the past five years, the airline industry has seen the combinations of Delta with Northwest, United with Continental and Southwest Airlines Co. with AirTran. Further consolidation is likely to raise airfares. The price of a domestic round-trip flight has climbed more than 11 percent since 2009, when adjusted for inflation, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The merger will give a combined American and US Airways Group Inc. the ability to increase fares. United, Delta and Southwest would be likely to follow.

Frequent-flier miles • Your miles will be safe. After the merger is approved, the two airlines will likely combine the miles into one program, and elite status from one airline will likely be honored on the other. That puts the occasional traveler closer to rewards.

The merged carrier will continue American's participation in the OneWorld alliance, which was founded by American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. Today, it has 12 airlines, including Finnair, Royal Jordanian and Japan Airlines. US Airways will leave the Star Alliance, which includes rival United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada and 24 other airlines. Alliances allow passengers to earn and redeem miles on partner airlines.

Destinations • A key reason for merging is to link both airlines' networks, creating a system on par with Delta Air Lines and United.

There is little overlap between the two airlines' existing routes. The combined carrier will offer 6,700 daily flights to 336 destinations in 56 countries, making it more attractive to companies seeking to fly employees around the globe.

US Airways passengers will gain access to American's international destinations, particularly London and Latin America. American's passengers will be able to better connect to smaller U.S. cities that US Airways serves.

The combined carrier will have considerable presence in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Charlotte, N.C., Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. In past mergers, airlines have promised not to close any hubs but have, while also dramatically reducing service in once-key cities.

Passenger confusion • The merger of two airlines often is a hassle for customers. Which terminal or ticket counter do they go to for check in? If there is a problem with a ticket, which company should they call?

"These things are never as seamless as they seem," said Thomas Lawton, a professor of business administration at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of business. "There will probably be some initial teething problems." —

Delta's take

Delta, which will be a big international competitor, is the product of a 2008 acquisition of Northwest. CEO Richard Anderson said in December that "having concluded (Delta's) merger quite successfully has given us a significant lead in the industry and it's a lead that we don't intend on relinquishing."