What the American Airlines/ US Airways Merger Will Mean for You

FILE - This Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013 file photo shows an American Airlines plane and a US Airways plane at parked at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport. On Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, the Justice Department says it has reached an agreement to allow the merger of the two airlines. The agreement requires them to scale back the size of the merger at key airports in Washington and other big cities. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
AP

NEW YORK -- American Airlines and US Airways (LCC) have cleared the last major hurdle to merging, now that the Justice Department has agreed to the deal if they scale back their combined footprint in some major airports. But it will be several months -- if not years -- before passengers see any significant impact from a union that will create the world's biggest airline.

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 and 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:

Airfares

During the past five years, the airline industry has seen the combinations of Delta (DAL) with Northwest, United (UAL) with Continental and Southwest Airlines (LUV) with AirTran. The price of a domestic round-trip flight has climbed more than 15 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. Although it could also pave the way for further expansion by discount airlines such as Spirit Airlines (SAVE) and Allegiant Travel (ALGT).

Frequent Flier Miles

Your miles will be safe. After the merger closes, 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 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.

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, N.C., Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. It is unclear how many of those cities will keep their levels of service. 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 repeated 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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mb1958

iT IS DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE THAT THE JUSTICE DEPT. WILL ALLOW THE TWO WORST AIRLINES TO COMBINE TO BECOME THE LARGEST AIRLINE. THAT AIRLINE WILL DO ALL POSSIBEL TO SCREW THE TRAVLER AND HURT COMPETITION. See what USAIr did to a blint traeler yesterday. Another good job by OBAMA's Justice dept. The same idiots who have let every Wall Street crook go with no prosecution, after commiting crimes that almost brought this nation down. All they had to do was pay a huge fine which they hardly felt ,.
Sure feels like they paid a bribe. Good work DoJ !!!!

November 14 2013 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mb1958's comment
pgile

True. Government should become more involved and exercise more control over business. What was Obama thinking?

November 15 2013 at 5:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
richard.marsden

There is a $1,000.00 price differential between flights out of New Jersey vs. JFK on the 1st Class route via US Airways (NJ) or Delta (JFK) to Orlando. Will this merger create an efficient market on shorter run domestic routes?

Will it close the spread out of NY or just raise the price in NJ? I can walk to the LIRR from here (JFK Airtrain) - Jersey requires shuttle service.

Because, I would be happy with business class and a Club day pass, however business class service is currently unavailable on this route, if you want to fly a major carrier.

November 13 2013 at 8:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dquandle

"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."

On the contrary, the key reason for merging is to facilitate greater gouging of the American flying public, on course to monopoly. Of course the "justice" department has agreed to this because "justice" = corporate profit, in the diseased eyes of Holder and his puppeteer, Obama.

November 12 2013 at 10:45 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
dquandle

How sickening. The too-big-to-fly monopoly compounds itself under the corrupt tutelage of the corporate a$$licker Holder and the corporatist ( equivalent to fascist according to Mussolini) criminal Obama regime.

November 12 2013 at 10:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
freeetob

Airline mergers amount to the same sh-t as the 1990's deregulation of telecommunications and financial businesses. Our government told us there would be more choices, lower rates and fees. Well, bend over. Now it's the airlines' turn.

November 12 2013 at 8:55 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
kpamesa

Simply and succinctly put: UsAirways is simply going BACK into the airline from which it was created. The original Pan American World Airways was split off into international (PanAm), domestic (American) and regional (UsAir, Piedmont, etc) airlines. Way back in the EARLY 1980s the scuttlebutt was that America could survive much BETTER if airlines consolidated DOWN to 5 total carriers. Now, flying is nothing much more than letting Greyhound do the driving.

November 12 2013 at 8:42 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

Air pollution is at a record high throughout the world, and airlines are a big contributor to this, the engines have been cleaned up considerably, but the numbers of aircraft in the air at any one time has increased dynamically and each is burning tons of hydrocarbons per hour, which is causing all sorts of toxic fallout, including acid rain that eats car finishes, home roofs, and everything else it touches.

The sooner we do away with domestic over the land air travel and replace it with High Speed Rail the better off we shall all be.

November 12 2013 at 8:33 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

The airlines are on their last leg, they have less than 40 years to go before each is grounded due to lack of fuel... Thus we, as a world community, must begin to get High Speed Rail that operates on clean free energy up and running as soon as possible.

November 12 2013 at 8:29 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

Southwest fares were low due to their buying jet fuel several years in advance and at the lowest prices of the time, now they are running out of this fuel and will have to buy on the open market, thus prices may rise.

U.S. Air and United tried to merge a few years back, the merger was a disaster due to incompatible computer software systems, and thus it failed.

This merger is somewhat different in that the Justice Department requires that many Gates be surrendered or sold to small more competitive airlines, we shall see how the private enterprise free market handles this; but I am betting on the public getting screwed.

November 12 2013 at 8:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kerberusii

the purpose of a merger is to merge, a latin word meaning to "sink below the waves and disappear". what is merged are jobs, price competition, convenience, etc.

too bad illiterate americans swallow all the garbage the plutocratic American business and political systems send their way.

November 12 2013 at 7:53 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply