What the airline merger means for Charlotte, and you

Credit: Getty Images

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 14: Thomas Horton (L) Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of American Airlines, and Doug Parker, Chairman and CEO of US Airways pose with a model triple seven airraft during a news conference to announce the merger of the two airlinesFebruary 14, 2013 in Dallas Texas. US Airways and American Airlines have agreed to an $11 billion merger, creating the largest airline in the world. The airline will be called American Airlines and be headed by US Airways CEO Doug Parker. (Photo by Donna McWilliam/Getty Images


by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC


Posted on February 14, 2013 at 7:52 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 15 at 12:07 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- What has become a familiar sight in Charlotte will soon be a distant memory.

The combined fleet of 1500 planes will bear the newly updated American Airlines logo, but that is not the only changes to come when the full transition takes effect in 18 months.

"In theory extra saving will give them opportunity to invest in newer planes and keep the planes they have maintained," says AAA Travel specialist Henry Dennis.

Dennis predicts once the merger takes effect the airlines will be in a position to make changes customers can notice.

During Thursday morning's announcement, the airline spoke about significant benefits in the way of comfort and connectivity. The fleet's new aircraft will be equipped with features likes advanced in-seat, in-flight entertainment systems and Wifi.

New transcontinental and international wide-body air crafts will also feature lie-flat, all aisle access premium class seats.

Dennis says travelers will also see a fine-tuned loyalty program and more non-stop flights out of Charlotte Douglas.  Destinations include the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia and domestic regions of the Rockies and West Coast-- once outside the full reach of US Airways.

"I think the biggest difference is more places to go to with less hassle," says Dennis.

He adds a merger almost guarantees a consolidation of flights where both carriers operate now.

The question is whether there will be enough demand to fill all flights.

As a result the new airline may cut flights to and from cities like Dallas, Chicago, New York and Miami. 

Charlie Leocha, Director of the Consumer Travel Alliance says history has proven consumers end up on the losing-end of airline mergers.

He has listed on his website 10 objections to the merger, which include less competition and higher airfares.

Leocha says Charlotte may come out stronger domestically, but the airport has a lot to lose.

"I think history has proven that, and I think Charlotte really needs to be careful when they look at their airport operations. I think Charlotte may end up losing non-stop international flights."

At this point he says it's a matter of which city will serve as the primary gateway for the new airline.

"Will it be JFK which has been the traditional gateway? Will it be Philadelphia which was US Airways normal gateway? Or will it be Charlotte? I think we are really looking at something up in the Northeast, not in the Charlotte area-- as for the European gateways, and we are looking at Miami being the main gateway into South America," says Leocha.