Delta and Northwest have pulled the trigger to create the biggest airline on the planet. Will others follow? I think so. Of course, the conventional wisdom has Continental getting together with United next. Might happen, but I can’t imagine a pair of airlines being more different. Continental has a fairly well respected management team, and a young fleet of new Boeings along with a reputation for good customer service (by US airline standards). United, a not all that well respected management (whether deserved or not, I can’t say) and a hodge-podge of Airbus and Boeing narrow body jets, and if you’ve flown out of Dulles in the last decade you know where they stand on customer service. I can see it happening, but only if Continental is the surviving entity, whether they name the airline Continental or not. 

I’m not sure who is out there for American. The only airline left is US Airways, and I don’t think AA wants to touch that with a 10 foot pole. Alaska would fill a hole in AA’s network out west, but AA’s record on acquisitions isn’t that great, and I don’t know if imposing AA’s structure upon Alaska will end in a good result. It’s hard to say. American has a whole list of problems, not the least of which is its rapidly deteriorating labor situation.

American’s unions are out to get back everything they gave up in 2003 and then some. All of this as oil hits $115+ per barrel. The pilots and flight attendants have managed to elect some rabble-rousers into leadership positions in their respective unions that have bumped the rhetoric meter off the scale, so much so that I fear they are backing themselves into a corner that they can’t get out of when reality sets in and they realize that they aren’t gonna get smack as far as significantly richer contracts go.

All in all, things are dicey in the airline business right now. Stay tuned because things are going to get cute.