What an American-US Airways merger means for you

Associated Press November 16, 2013 

Airline Merger Traveler Impact

An American Airlines plane and a US Airways plane are parked at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington. While American Airlines and US Airways have cleared the last major hurdle to merging, it will be several months, if not years, before passengers see any significant impact.

SUSAN WALSH — AP

— American Airlines and US Airways have cleared the last major hurdle to merging, but 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 immediately.

Since announcing the deal in February, the two airlines have been working behind the scenes to try to make the merger as seamless as possible. Following Tuesday’s agreement with the Justice Department, the two airlines said they expect the deal to close in December. But that doesn’t mean everything will happen overnight. When the deal does close, 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. The price of a domestic round-trip flight has climbed more than 15 percent since 2009, 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. It could also pave the way for further expansion by discount airlines such as Spirit Airlines Inc. and Allegiant Travel Co.

Frequent flier miles

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

The merger will continue American’s participation in the OneWorld alliance, which was founded by American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. Today, it has 13 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, part of United Continental Holdings Inc.

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

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, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. In past mergers, airlines have promised not to close any hubs but have gone ahead and dramatically reduced service in once-key cities.

Passenger confusion

The merger of two airlines often means confusion and 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? For a while, United and Continental were issuing two confirmation numbers for each ticket so either airline’s staff could make changes. Problems with the integration of their frequent flier programs angered many loyal road warriors, and computer glitches caused flight delays. It could be months, if not years, until all American and US Airways planes get a uniform paint job.

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