Over the weekend it came out that US Airways had started discussions with pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants at rival American Airlines. The unions are encouraging the companies to merge:
The first thing to know is that this doesn't mean that the two airlines are merging—it's a step towards a merger, but a deal is far from certain. AA, for its part, has said that it wants to emerge from bankruptcy as an independent airline. But industry analysts have long discounted that as an unrealistic goal—as separate airlines, US Airways and American would probably find it increasingly difficult to compete with the combined United-Continental (now United) and Delta-Northwest (now Delta) juggernauts.
The letter from the head of US Airways, Doug Parker, to his employees, which the airline filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, is a fairly lucid explanation of the situation. US Airways has reached deals with the AA units of the Transport Workers Union (mechanics, maintenance workers, ground crews and so on), the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Allied Pilots Association. AA's current plan includes cutting north of 13,000 jobs; US Airways' plan would save "at least 6,200" of those jobs, according to Mr Parker.
If the airlines do merge—which seems likelier by the day—it would probably retain American Airlines' name and Dallas headquarters, but with new management from US Airways. It would also probably retain its Chicago, Miami, Charlotte, and Phoenix hubs, though it's not clear what would happen to secondary hubs like Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Brussels. Regulators would insist that the new airline stay in the oneworld alliance, and customers, like me, would insist that the two frequent-flyer programs merge without loss of value.
The fact remains: American has to merge with someone, and US Airways is an obvious fit. This action by American's union is like the kids saying they like their single parent's new paramour: it has no real persuasive force other than to mean the marriage will go more smoothly.
Update: The Dallas CBS affiliate is suggesting what the new airline would look like.