AA / US Airways Merger Mania

As the clock ticks towards the end of the year, more and more people are weighing in on the potential American Airlines / US Airways merger that’s been cooking for a few months now.  I have a few thoughts on this:

1)  It is curious to me that Tom Horton continues to describe himself as neutral on the merger idea on the one hand but also argues for a post bankruptcy merger any time the door is theoretically closed at a meeting.

2)  The fact that the pilots have been engaged on this leads me to believe that an offer is imminent.

3)  If an offer is imminent, someone has found a way to let Tom Horton exit gracefully.  I’m guessing the plan here is something similar to what Glenn Tilton got in the ContiUnited merger.  I’m also guessing that Tom reckons that if Doug Parker blows things, he may yet be able to step into the CEO role again.

4)  Not all pilots are eager for this.  There is a new blog started by about 35 AA pilots, mostly captains and mostly from the DFW base.  The fact that most are captains from the DFW base leads me to believe that these are fairly senior captains who may feel a touch threatened with respect to retaining their seniority against similar US Air (EAST) pilots.

Seniority is going to be a touchy issue for pilots and other crew.  It won’t be Delta like in the integration largely because rational thought isn’t in place for either union involved (APA or USAPA).  If this were an ALPA/ALPA integration, the odds for a smoother integration would go up.

You know what?  Smooth or unsmooth, it doesn’t really matter.  US Airways has already proved it knows how to run a split operation.  Furthermore, there is now federal law that will govern a seniority integration in this case and that should prevent a USAPA-like embroglio.

Some pilots from both unions point to Doug Parker and US Airways not being able to integrate their employees in the previous merger and that’s not quite true.  There was an arbitrated decision that very senior US Air (EAST) pilots threw a temper tantrum over and tossed out by electing a new union organization.  Parker & company couldn’t even be sure who to negotiate with for the last several years much less solve a problem.

Parker & company keep making offers to US Airways flight attendants and they keep voting them down asking for more.  And who wins in those situations?  Parker & company.  Because the NLRB won’t let the crews strike and does keep the new agreements coming which proves that progress can be made and that therefore justifies not letting the unions strike.  Meanwhile, US Airways keeps paying the old rates.

At some point, you need to make the deal you can get, not the deal you want.  US Airways crews haven’t been able to get their act together to realize that much less make it happen.

I rate a merger announcement as 80% probable at this point but I’m not sure that I agree that it will happen before the end of the year.  I can see this deal getting announced in the 2nd week of January, however.


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