CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The planned merger between American Airlines and US Airways may mean more choices for travelers heading to and from Charlotte.
Gary Silverstein with Mann Travels in Charlotte anticipates positive changes for the Queen City. He is part owner of the largest independent travel agency in the state. With nine locations and more than 70 employees, his business relies on the benefits of being a US Airways hub city, like direct flights into the Caribbean.
"They fly out of Miami all those same places we fly out of Charlotte too, so hopefully we will still be able to keep that and we won't be flying Charlotte-Miami and Miami onward,” he said.
Rick Seaney, CEO of farecompare.com, said that with American recently pulling out of San Juan and leaving that traffic to Miami, the merger would be a good opportunity for the new airline to add more traffic from Charlotte into the Caribbean. He said overall, the merger will strengthen the airline's domestic presence, especially in the northeast.
“The new American/US Airways gives a really nice hub system across the entire the eastern seaboard, all the way from New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., through Charlotte and down into Miami. That is a pretty nice network to have for a merged airline,” said Seaney.
US Airways also plans to leave the Star Alliance for One World. That means new, direct travel opportunities with airlines servicing Asia (JAL, Cathay Pacific) and Europe (British Airways return) may be in the works.
"One World has British Airways which has a huge traffic pattern to London Heathrow and some other places,” said Seaney.
Switching alliances however can leave airlines like Lufthansa in limbo, said Silverstein. Many fly in and out of Charlotte from cities like Birmingham and Nashville to board flights to and from Munich. These connections are vital and convenient to destinations like Barcelona and Rome.
“Lufthansa might pull out of Charlotte or may start flying out of Frankfurt and compete with US Airways. No one knows right now,” said Silverstein.
At this point, the airlines have not disclosed details of the changes after the merger. Experts said traditionally, loyalty customers will have about a year to transition into the new rewards program, American Advantage.