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The American Airlines-US Airways Merger—What You Need to Know

American Airlines and US Airways

American Airlines and US Airways announced this morning a planned merger that will create the world’s largest airline. Worth $11 billion, the combined airline will have more than 1,500 aircraft and will operate more than 6,700 daily flights to 336 destinations. Though the government still needs to review the merger plans, aviation analysts don’t foresee any major objections and predict it could be approved in just a few months. After that, it’s going to take some time before the carriers can begin joint operations; they must first undertake the herculean task of integrating staff, technology, and hardware. In the meantime, here’s what you can expect from the new airline:

What’s the name of the airline?
The merged carrier will take the American Airlines name, and its stylized new logo and airplane livery. It will also operate out of the American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. We also expect that flight attendants for the newly-merged carrier will eventually be wearing American’s recently commissioned uniforms designed by KAUFMANFRANCO, which are scheduled to start rolling out in 2014.

How will I book tickets on the new carrier?
For the time being, you will be able to visit both aa.com and USAirways.com, and call both of the carriers' toll-free numbers. (Visit the website newamericanarriving.com to learn more about the merged airline.) Though the airlines will likely begin code sharing in the next few months, it will take some time before they can fully integrate their reservation systems. It took nearly a year and a half (and quite a few hiccups) to combine the reservation systems of Continental and United. They came together in 2010, but the Continental website didn’t go dark until March 2012.

What desk should I go to in the airport?
Until the reservations systems are integrated, you should look for the signage and ticket desk of the carrier that is operating your flight.

What’s going to happen to my frequent flier miles?
It will likely take some time before the loyalty programs come together. When they do merge, analysts expect that the more substantial American Airlines AAdvantage program will prevail. That doesn’t mean your US Airways Dividend miles will go to waste. In past airline merges, both miles and status have shifted from the disbanded loyalty program to the new one. (You can expect these changes in the next six to eight months, most likely.) The good news, according to Brian Kelly, frequent-flier expert and founder of thepointsguy.com: Combining your American and US Airways accounts will mean more miles in your account. The drawback: US Airways fliers may see mileage claim levels raised for certain “sweet spots” where the Dividend program has lower claim levels than American. And it could become somewhat harder to find award seats on this new carrier as routes are cut. For more on how to get the most out of the merger as a frequent flier, visit thepointsguy.com.

OneWorld or Star Alliance?
The new carrier’s global alliance partner will likely be OneWorld, to which American Airline already belongs. This will disappoint some frequent fliers, since the 27-member Star Alliance (current US Airways alliance partner) is more than twice as large and has a better presence in Asia and South America.

This means higher fares, right?
In general, decreased competition leads to higher ticket prices. Seth Kaplan, an analyst with trade publication Airline Weekly, predicts slightly higher fares across the board—with more increases (all single digit, however) along routes where US Airways and American Airlines currently compete. Airline Weekly recently highlighted the routes that would become monopolies after the merger. Among them are connections between Charlotte and New York, Dallas, and Miami, and links between Philadelphia and Dallas and Miami. Without government intervention, fares here will likely rise the most. The tradeoff for these increases, Kaplan notes, is a much more stable airline industry.

What does this mean for routes?
In the coming months, the newly consolidated carrier will likely cut some flights. On thechopping block, according to Kaplan, will be overt redundancies and flights that may bemore efficiently redirected through other hubs. (If you live in a smaller city, this may mean you may have to make an extra stop along the way.) The city most vulnerable to cutbacks is Phoenix (a current US Airways hub), but Kaplan doesn’t see it receiving the devastatingcuts in service that Cincinnati did after the Delta-Northwest merger. New York JFK andPhiladelphia will also likely see some adjustments as the airline consolidates its position in the region. That said, the merger also opens up a slew of new routing possibilities forfrequent fliers.

What about the inflight experience?
American Airlines has traditionally placed much more of a priority on delivering premium experiences than US Airways, from its Main Cabin Extra setting (i.e. premium economy) to its inflight entertainment to its lie-flat business-class seats and first class cabins. It looks as though the new airline, which will be run by current US Airways CEO Doug Parker, will adopt most of these standards, especially in the more than 600 new aircraft that it is planning to take delivery of in the coming months.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

 

Photo by Reuters, Corbis/ David Neal Jr.

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