The boards of directors of US Airways and American Airlines are reportedly meeting today to vote on a merger deal. Assuming they approve the deal, the merger announcements would formally roll out Thursday - on Valentine's Day.
Of course, a deal could fall apart right up until the last minute. But as aviation reporter Terry Maxon writes in Dallas: "Okay, there’s going to be a merger between American Airlines and US Airways. I know it, they know it, you know it. The only question is when. It’s like a pregnancy: Show us the baby, already."
So here are five things to keep in mind, assuming the merger goes through:
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport will be the second-largest hub for the nation's biggest airline. The airport will be behind only Dallas/Fort Worth for the number of daily takeoffs and landings by the new American Airline, and would be one of the largest single airline-dominated hubs in the entire world.
- The combined company will retain the American Airlines name and brand, and will be based in American's current headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. The company would stay in American's oneworld global alliance, meaning US Airways would leave the Star Alliance. Frequent flier programs would be merged after a few months.
- US Airways CEO Doug Parker and his management team are likely to lead the merged airline, with AMR Corp. chief executive Tom Horton getting a ceremonial role as a non-executive chairman for a year at two. Since Parker and his team are usually very pro-Charlotte, that's viewed as a big positive for the city's future in the new company.
- Speaking of Charlotte's future, most analysts believe that the city's place as a hub airport is safe in the combined company. Charlotte Douglas is the only southeast alternative to Delta's megahub in Atlanta, and Charlotte has the lowest operating costs for airlines of any major hub. But with 90 percent of flights at Charlotte Douglas operated by US Airways, and more than 75 percent of the passengers at Charlotte Douglas connecting to other flights, the airport is uniquely dependent on one airline. Any changes here could be very bad news for Charlotte.
- Employees are waiting to see how they'll be affected. The combined company will have more than 100,000 workers. More than 7,100 are based in Charlotte. Parker has said the combination is about growing the airline, not cutting flights, but some cutbacks are inevitable - otherwise, there wouldn't be any cost savings. This story in the Winston-Salem Journal about 850 US Airways call center workers waiting to see if their jobs are safe gives a flavor of what's to come.