How will US Airways-American Airlines merger impact flyers?

PHOENIX - The first question to come up at a news conference with the heads of American Airlines and US Airways 
Thursday morning after a merger was announced had to do with fares. 

Analysts say fares could go up as a result of the merger. FareCompare.com says one less airline in competition gives carriers more pricing power. Doug Parker, US Airways CEO, said this merger would create more competition.

"It creates a nice third competitor to two larger airlines," he said. "Our view is it increases competition. It doesn't decrease competition."

Airline officials said the merger will also create more options for customers.

One flyer at Sky Harbor said, "I think it will be great, we'll have more places to go to."

While officials at Sky Harbor airport are looking forward to the merge, it will leave a number of empty gates. Right now, US Airways and American are operating out of separate terminals at Sky Harbor. US Airways is located in Terminal 4 with 50 gates and close to 300 flights a day.

American Airlines operates out of Terminal 3, with three gates and an average of 20 flights per day.

Officials with Sky Harbor say once the merge takes place, all flights will be out of Terminal 4. They have not yet found an airline to replace the American Airlnes gates, but are hopeful that someone will come soon.

Once the merger goes through, American Airlines will have more than 600 planes, 6,700 flights a day to 336 destinations in 56 countries.

There's also reports the merger will create more non-stop flights and international options for Valley travelers.

However, some are concerned about frequent flier programs.

Parker and Tom Horton, AMR's CEO, said the merger would allow passengers to have access to a greater network and frequent fliers would see a greater benefit.

Analysts have concerns. They expect US Airways' Star Alliance program to transfer into American's Oneworld.  American has fewer airline partners than US Airways. Also, analysts worry that American's program could be flooded with new elite fliers and that could make it harder to upgrade or cash in miles for tickets.

Horton touted one major upside to the merger. 

"American has invested a lot in our customer experience this year," he said at the news conference. "Hundreds of new airplanes, reconfiguring our long-haul airplanes with lie-flat seats and big business class.  (This is the) vision of the new American Airlines."

According to a news release, the combined airline is planning to take delivery of more than 600 new aircraft, including 517 narrowbody aircraft and 90 widebody international aircraft, most of which will be equipped with advanced in-seat, inflight entertainment systems, inflight Wi-Fi offering connectivity throughout the world, and "Main Cabin Extra" seating with 4-6 inches of additional legroom.

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