Thursday, February 14, 2013
American Airlines and U.S. Airways have made it official, saying they’ll merge, creating the world’s largest airline.
American Airlines is an important local carrier at Mid-Continent Airport with its seven daily flights to Dallas and Chicago. But from those hubs, local fliers could soon get more choices with the merger. It will help folks who want to go to the East Coast, even though it’ll still mean flying through Dallas or Chicago, which is something local fliers are used to.
Direct flights simply aren’t in the car for local travelers with a merge of American Airlines and U.S. Airways. In fact, local airline expert and W.S.U professor Dean Headley says Wichita might end up with fewer local flights with this merger.
"For the local market, generally speaking, when carriers of import and size come together we tend to see, let's say they have ten routes out of here on a regular basis, they might end up with seven or eight," Headley said.
The co-author of the airline quality report says that’s because the airlines are looking for efficiencies to make the merger profitable.
It’s an $11 billion deal bringing the airlines together. The combined carrier will be called “American Airlines,” still based in Fort Worth.
American needed to merge to stay on par with Delta and United, which also had their mergers with other airlines.
Some fliers see a silver lining with this merger.
"So maybe it's going to be good for us,” says Wichita flier Kathy McNeil. “If it's going to open up more routes then that might be better for the travelers."
But likely with higher process.
"Prices aren't going to jump $100,” Headley said. “They're going to gradually go up as they figure out what the market will tolerate and what the market looks like."
But before you frequent fliers choke on that, keep in mind Southwest is coming in June and for known low fares. Headley says Southwest will keep a lid on local prices.
"For the foreseeable future we have an ace in the hole,” he said. “Anytime you have a low-fare carrier in the market, a player in the market, fares tend to stay pressed."
Both American and Southwest fly to Dalllas and Chicago, but to different airports. It’ll be interesting to see how that impacts prices.
Headley says the key to Southwest’s success in Wichita is for local fliers to support them. He says there aren’t any other low-fare carriers to keep the legacy carrier’s fares in check.