US Airways, American Airlines merger could mean higher fares

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

A US Airways tail rest on the tarmac near two American Airlines planes at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia on April 23, 2012. American Airlines heads to federal court on April 23, 2012 to convince a bankruptcy judge that to survive, it must break labor agreements that workers fought decades to win. The airline lost more than $10 billion USD in the decade leading up to its declaration of bankruptcy last November. During that same period most of its major rivals used the bankruptcy process to cut wages and benefits, which American says has left it saddled with higher labor costs. US Airways has won the support of unions at the bankrupt American Airlines for a proposal to fold the two companies into one giant carrier, US Airways CEO Doug Parker said on April 20, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Jim Watson (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

Posted on February 7, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 7 at 6:41 PM

A US Airways merger with American Airlines could be announced as soon as next week, according to NBC Charlotte's sister station WFAA in Dallas, Texas.

American Airlines parent company could vote as soon as Monday, reports say.

Experts say a merger would likely mean more flights, more routes and higher airfare prices in Charlotte. 

The merger would create the nation's largest airline with a large presence here, since Charlotte is already US Airways' busiest  hub.

"Prices are high as it is, going any higher would definitely impact us," said traveler Kent Greene.

Experts say if Greene books a $500 flight now, that same flight out of Charlotte Douglas after a US Airways and American Airlines merger could cost an additional ten percent, on average, because the airlines would no longer be competing against each other, and control the majority of gates.

"You'll have fewer choices in a number of markets," said Professor Peter Schwarz, who teaches economics at UNC Charlotte.

Schwarz also says a merger could add about 100 additional daily flights into and out of Charlotte Douglas, to more locations with fewer  layovers.

"Likely more opportunity for me to get direct flights, so I think it would be helpful," said traveler Jim Martin.

"There's a quality that's probably going to increase because they have more assets," said traveler Tammie McDonald.

However, Schwarz says don't expect leaps in service and warns mergers typically have transition turbulence.

"Typically the airlines offer you service that's good enough that you won't refuse to fly them in the future, but not much better than that," he said.

Charlotte Douglas Aviation Director Jerry Orr says a merger would mean more international routes than currently fly from here now. It's one of American Airlines' strong points.

"Particularly in South America and Central America, those are developing economies and that's where the growth is going to be," Orr said.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker is expected to run the company, but the merged airline will take the American Airlines name, so get ready to say goodbye to the US Airways name and logo.

Schwarz says system wide, he expects some pilots and flight attendants could lose their jobs, but doesn't think that will happen in Charlotte because of the increased number of flights.

Orr says a merger could create new jobs within the airport.

If and when a merger is announced, it would still have to clear federal regulatory hurdles, which could take a while.