SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Choosing a stock ticker symbol, picking uniforms for pilots and flight attendants, and combining computer systems are but a few of the integration issues facing US Airways as it prepares to merge with American Airlines.
At US Airways' annual media day in Scottsdale on Wednesday, executives talked about the risks of merging two airlines that will have over 100,000 employees and 1,500 aircraft. Once the merger is complete in the third quarter, the new American will be the world's largest airline.
"None of us are suggesting that this will go easily or even flawlessly," said US Airways CEO Doug Parker, who will lead the merged company. The two carriers have over 700 applications and systems that need to be integrated, and 29 planning teams are in place to work on various issues.
And since US Airways is about half the size of American, US Airways Chief Operating Officer Robert Isom said, the company will likely use many of American's systems so it won't have to retrain all its workers.
"We can't tell customers, 'We'll get back to you,'" Isom said. "We have to find a way to get this thing done while we're operating both airlines."
As soon as the merger closes, the new company plans to have signs in place to tell customers where to go in case they show up at the wrong ticket counter. That's an issue since the two carriers will operate separately until the Federal Aviation Administration issues a single operating certificate for the company, which could take 18 months to two years, executives said.
One example of needed integration is the ability to sell US Airways tickets on American's website and vice versa, American's chief integration officer, Beverly Goulet, said at the event.
"We can't afford to shut down for a while to get things right," Goulet said. "We want to do this aggressively and focus on the things that will produce the most value."
Consolidating the corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, also a top priority, will occur shortly after the merger closes. US Airways has 116 employees in Dallas-Fort Worth, while American has 23,379.
US Airways has also announced that it will match United Airlines' $50 increase in its fee to change ticket reservations, raising it to $200. The carrier expects ancillary revenue from baggage fees, change fees and choice seats to exceed $600 million in 2013.
American Airlines, which charges $150 to change ticket reservations, said it does not plan to match the increase at this time. American offers customers its extra-cost "Choice Essential" and "Choice Plus" options, which, among other benefits, allow passengers to avoid a change fee on reservations.