The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 14, 2013

What air merger means for you

NEW YORK — While American Airlines and US Airways announced plans to merge Thursday, it will be several months – if not years – before passengers see any significant impact.

Passengers with existing tickets on American or US Airways – and members of both frequent flier programs – shouldn’t fret. No changes will come anytime soon.

American’s parent company, AMR Corp., is still under bankruptcy protection and will need the court to approve the deal. US Airways shareholders will also have to vote for a merger. Then the Department of Transportation and the Justice Department must sign off. Finally, once a deal closes, the new company could operate two separate airlines for a number of years.

When the airlines finally do merge, here’s what passengers can expect:

– AIRFARE

During the past five years, the airline industry has seen the combinations of Delta with Northwest, United with Continental and Southwest Airlines Co. with AirTran. Further consolidation is likely to raise airfares. The price of a domestic round-trip flight has climbed more than 11 percent since 2009, when adjusted for inflation, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The merger will give a combined American and US Airways Group Inc. the ability to increase fares. United, Delta and Southwest would be likely to follow. Although it could also pave the way for further expansion by discount airlines such as Spirit Airlines Inc. and Allegiant Travel Co.

– FREQUENT FLIER MILES

Your miles will be safe. After the merge is approved, the two airlines will likely combine the miles into one program and elite status from one airline will likely be honored on the other. That puts the occasional traveler closer to rewards.

The merged carrier will continue American’s participation in the OneWorld alliance, which was founded by American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. Today, it has 12 airlines including Finnair, Royal Jordanian and Japan Airlines. US Airways will leave the Star Alliance, which includes rival United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada and 24 other airlines. Alliances allow passengers to earn and redeem miles on partner airlines.

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