Doug Parker brings some heat.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker made a more detailed case for the US Airways / American Airlines merger they are pursuing at the annual US Airways shareholders meeting. Parker is in the position of having to denigrate the airline he wants to merge with somewhat in that he has to make a case that the stand-alone approach doesn’t bring profitability while the merger approach does.

Parker argues that the two airlines together can compete globally whereas the without US Airways, American Airlines doesn’t quite get there. The problem with that viewpoint is that he’s arguing scale at various point while also saying that US Airways doesn’t *need* a merger partner to continue its profitability. So why can’t American Airlines survive without US Airways?

The answer is that the two airlines both face long term profitability risk when facing Delta and United in the marketplace. US Airways *does* need a merger partner just as badly as American Airlines does. US Airways brings an executive team, a profitable operation and network that is complementary to American Airlines. AA brings scale to the table.

The labor issues still linger out there and while they aren’t as rosy as Parker makes them out to be for such a combined airline, they also aren’t as bad as some make them out to be as well. One thing US Airways has proven is that you can run a profitable airline with a fractured labor force. They’ve done it.

Labor unions, particularly pilots and flight attendants, have got to realize that their ability to survive is predicated on accepting new models of flying at the airlines. Preserving jobs is one mandate and that’s understandable. But all unions are going to have to accept the idea that preserving those jobs may require flying on smaller aircraft at vastly lower pay scales.

AA may do US Airways a favor in getting the labor contracts thrown out in court. If a merger goes through, a new contract could take several years to get negotiated into place while new, lower terms are imposed upon the unions which save the airlines money until that new contract is agreed upon. If the unions wants to realize salary improvements, they’ll have to cede some ground on productivity, health benefits and retirement funding. The sooner they do so, the sooner they realize real gains in overall compensation and particularly so on the US Airways side.

On a related note, the USAPA (US Airways pilots union) is now expressing moderated concern about a merger from their point of view. This isn’t surprising since AA pilots would dominate a combined airline from both a seniority and numbers perspective.


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