Airlines signal merger is near

September 27, 2005|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,sun reporter

US Airways could emerge from U.S. Bankruptcy Court protection as early as today and merge with the smaller, low-cost airline America West to create the nation's fifth-largest airline, according to the companies.

Both airlines received approvals from their shareholders and the bankruptcy court last week, clearing the way for the move. U.S. Airways entered the court system in September 2004.

The airlines expect to maintain two companies for the short term, with reservation systems that will "code share," or book passengers on both airlines. Passengers should continue to deal with reservation agents at the airline that issued their tickets.

Eventually, the carriers expect $10 billion in annual revenue and $600 million in cost savings from "synergies," although some analysts have questioned how smoothly the melding of staffs and company cultures will go.

Airports such as Baltimore-Washington International Airport expect little to change in the short term. A spokesman for BWI said he had not received notice from the airlines but he expected normal operations. America West has a small presence at the airport, with five daily flights to Las Vegas and Phoenix. US Airways offers 40 daily flights to six cities, including New York, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C.

BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said the airlines' ticketing counters would likely merge. But he expected flights to continue normally from Concourse D, where both airlines operate.

US Airways was the dominant carrier at BWI until the late 1990s, when discount giant Southwest Airways displaced it. The carrier also scaled back significantly at the airport after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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