While I don’t spend much time on American Airlines or US Airways anymore, my recent flight excepted, I am following developments in the merger with great interest for a variety of reasons. First, I’m an AvGeek with a tremendous interest in what’s happening in the airline industry. Second, while I don’t profess to be an industrial engineer or organizational consultant, the logistics of putting together two large airline operations simply fascinates me.
So far, I like what I see. While it seemed pretty clear to me that this was going to happen, the new American managers have formalized their commitment to keeping the larger airline’s Sabre system for passenger services. No airline’s technology strikes me as cutting edge, but keeping the tried and true Sabre system should go a long way in easing the transition to one platform when the time comes. Further, both carriers are now extensively code-sharing. Last time I checked, they were down to just a few international routes where local rules were preventing them from doing so, and this may have been resolved by now.
An alignment of meal services is forthcoming, and there’s quite a bit of speculation surrounding this topic. My sense is that whatever happens will be an improvement for US Airways customers, but perhaps a mild trimming around the edges for current AA aficionados. I think one could safely say that current AA meal windows/quality exceed that of most, if not all, domestic carriers so there could be some room for trimming here. There’s a pretty interesting thread on the topic at FT.
On the downside, much of the AA fleet will be getting some more seats installed. That said, the proposals I saw were not out of line with other mainline carriers. Nonetheless, this will be an interesting watch item. Of course, there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the frequent flyer program, when will account balances be merged, potential revenue requirements, etc. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I don’t think it is a given that the new AAdvantage moves to a four tier elite system. It’s entirely possible they institute a minimum revenue requirement, but not guaranteed. It doesn’t get a lot of play by the experts, but AAdvantage already rewards big spenders over big mileage balances through a little something called an Elite Qualifying Point. Will it matter in the end? Who knows?
When it’s all said and done, good ideas will not mean anything without good execution. I’m hopeful. Are you? What are your top worries/concerns/hopes/desires for the merger?
-MJ, February 24, 2014