What the American Airlines-U.S. Airways merger means for flyers

February 14, 2013 3:32:42 PM PST
In the past five years, Northwest Airlines has teamed up with Delta, United with Continental and Southwest with AirTran.

After a lengthy courtship, bankrupt American Airlines and U.S. Airways have announced wedding plans. The new American Airlines would be the world's biggest airline.

America, United, Delta and Southwest would account for nearly 75-percent of domestic flights.

"We're proud to introduce you to the new American Airlines," the company's CEO Tom Horton said Thursday.

This marriage will likely be allowed to happen because American and and U.S. Airways don't have many routes were they directly compete.

"There is minimal overlap. We're confident we'll move through the process with less challenge," American Airline's Chicago Vice President Franco Tedeschi said.

So what does merger mean? Chicago will remain a major hub for American. U.S. Airways does not have too many flights here but the combined airline will offer more destinations particularly on the East Coast.

"I'm hoping it opens up other destinations. I'm just hoping prices stay reasonable," American Airlines passenger Pamela Penn said.

That's the main question. Doesn't another merger lesson competition and inevitably boost fares?

"We feel this merger doesn't decrease but increases competition because it creates another carrier similar in size to those carriers operating today," U.S. Airways Vice President Kerry Hester said.

Over the last several years as mega mergers have settled in, airline fares have increased more than 11-percent, according to the Bureau of Transportation.

But bigger big players don't mean an end to the littler guys.

"Hope those low cost carriers keep popping up," American Airlines passenger Lara Clauson said. "It forces them to get realistic."

The new American Airlines says it will keep all of its hub cities.

However St. Louis hoped it would remain a hub when American took over TWA and that didn't happen.

"I think - bottom line - it's a good thing. I hope regulators and there and the unions remain strong to protect the employees," American Airlines passenger Catherine Boone said.

The U.S. Justice Department has to green light the merger and that will not likely happen until the fall. The two airlines' reservation systems have to be combined and as United and Continental have learned, that's not easy.

Frequent fliers for both American and U.S. Airways would keep their miles.