The long-rumored merger between American Airlines and US Airways appeared to move a step closer early this month when Tom Horton, American’s chief executive, announced that the two carriers were in “discussions” and that a decision would be made “within a matter of weeks.”
A combination of American, which is expected to emerge from bankruptcy protection early this year, and US Airways would create the nation’s largest airline as measured by number of employees, and the second-largest in terms of operating revenue. It would also complete a cycle of industry consolidation that has defined the past decade in commercial aviation, with Delta Air Lines merging with Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines joining United, and the latest corporate coupling between Southwest Airlines and AirTran, among several others.
Neither American nor US Airways would comment for this column, citing nondisclosure agreements relating to a possible merger that each has signed. But Aaron Gellman, a professor of transportation at Northwestern University, says he believes that the two parties remain a long way from an agreement, and that ultimately, a deal will happen only “if Wall Street wants it.”