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February 14, 2013

Merger expected to improve choice for American customers on both coasts

In recent years, Brett Snyder has lamented the absence of American Airlines in Long Beach, Calif.

At one time, the Southern California native could fly from Long Beach to DFW Airport and head almost anywhere in the world. Later, he could come home to his local airport -- a hop, skip and a jump from his beach town home. But then American ended its flights into Long Beach, leaving Snyder with fewer options.

That's why Snyder, like hundreds of other passengers around the country, may have reason to cheer for a merger of American Airlines and US Airways.

The combination is likely to open up dozens of east and west coast destinations, such as Long Beach and Burbank, which are served now by US Airways but not by American, analysts say.

And more passengers would likely connect through Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, headed to other U.S. destinations or across the oceans to international cities.

"People are going to get to go to more places,'' said Snyder, who runs the CrankyFlier.com blog. "There should be more destinations within the American network for sure."

With close to 100,000 employees, 1,500 aircraft and $38.7 billion in revenue combined, a marriage of American and US Airways would once again make Fort Worth home to the world's largest airline. American, once the No. 1 carrier, was passed up when United Airlines merged with Continental and Delta Air Lines merged with Northwest.

Some downsides for travelers may emerge, analysts said. Higher fares could result in some markets, though today's inflation-adjusted domestic fares are a lot lower than they were in 2000, said George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog.Since competition drives cheaper airline prices, taking one competitor out of the mix could drive up fares, agreed Rick Seaney, CEO and co-founder of Dallas-based FareCompare.

"The only good news is that if airlines get too frisky with higher prices, consumers will let them know quickly by cutting back on air travel," Seaney said.The priciest fares will occur at "fortress hubs," including Houston and Charlotte, analysts said. And plan to see fare jumps on routes where American and US Airways have overlapping nonstop service: such as Philadelphia to DFW or Miami, Charlotte to Miami and DFW, and Phoenix to Miami.

To read the full story that appeared in Thursday's Star-Telegram, click here.

-Yamil Berard

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/02/13/4619832/merger-expected-to-improve-choice.html#storylink=cpy



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