CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A potential merger between US Airways and American Airlines took another step forward Friday, when the union representing US Airways pilots recommended approval of a framework for combining the pilot groups.
The union’s board of pilot representatives voted unanimously to send the agreement, called a memorandum of understanding, to the union membership for a ratification vote. The union is recommending pilots vote in favor of the agreement.
The Charlotte-based U.S. Airline Pilots Association must now present the memorandum to its membership prior to the vote, which it expects to do over the coming weeks. The union said it couldn’t share details of the agreement Friday night due to a non-disclosure agreement around the confidential merger talks.
“If this merger transpires, we believe this (memorandum) is the quickest and surest path to a better lifestyle for us all,” said USAPA, in a statement.
The move follows the approval of memorandums of understanding by American Airlines’ pilot and flight attendant unions over the past week. Having such agreements in place sets a clearer framework for how different work groups would be integrated.
And having memorandums of understanding in place can illustrate more clearly any advantages offered by a merger over a standalone company. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants said their memorandum “further illuminates the financial benefits of a merger to AMR’s creditors.”
US Airways and American Airlines issued a joint statement about the memorandum Friday night.
“This memorandum of understanding will assist all of the stakeholders, including the Boards of AMR and US Airways, in making an informed decision as to whether a merger should ultimately be pursued. The MOU is one of several elements to be considered before a decision on a merger can be made,” the companies said.
The companies said that the memorandum includes a process for integrating pilot groups from the two companies. Pilot integration is still a major, unresolved sticking point from the 2005 merger of US Airways and America West.
The board of directors of AMR Corp., American’s parent company, will reportedly meet on Wednesday to review the possible merger. On Thursday, AMR chief executive Tom Horton sent employees a message saying he expects “to bring this to conclusion within a matter of weeks.”
The agreements that have been approved thus far must also be approved by management at American and US Airways. American Airlines has been in bankruptcy protection since November 2011, and US Airways has been pushing for a merger for more than a year.
US Airways operates about 90 percent of daily flights at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and more than 7,100 employees from the airline are based in the city. US Airways CEO Doug Parker has said the city’s hub status would be safe in the event of a merger.