No immediate local changes expected from American-US Airways deal

It could be several months – if not well into 2014 – before any changes happen at the Fort Smith Regional Airport or the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) as a result of the merger between American Airlines and US Airways.

The merger of the two airlines became official on Monday (Dec. 9), more than 11 months after the deal was first announced. American, which has emerged from bankruptcy, and US Airways are now the American Airlines Group. The company will remain based in Fort Worth, with Doug Parker remaining as CEO. The merger has faced opposition from federal regulators and union officials.

The new airline company plans to have almost 6,700 daily flights to more than 330 destinations in more than 50 countries. The new company will have about 100,000 employees worldwide. Shares of the merged airliner (NASDAQ: AAL) began trading Monday. The shares opened a $23.95 and closed at $24.60.

However, company officials said it could take 18-24 months before gaining its “Single Operating Certificate.” Company officials said customers should soon see a new features through the “oneworld” alliance created by the merger.

"Our people, our customers and the communities we serve around the world have been anticipating the arrival of the new American," American CEO Doug Parker said in the statement. "We are taking the best of both US Airways and American Airlines to create a formidable competitor, better positioned to deliver for all of our stakeholders.  We look forward to integrating our companies quickly and efficiently so the significant benefits of the merger can be realized."

American Airlines continues to be the largest carrier at Fort Smith with 58.1% of all enplanements for the first 10 months of 2013. The airport, which is served by flights from Atlanta (Delta) and Dallas-Fort Worth (American), posted October enplanements of 7,407, down 3% compared to October 2012. For the first 10 months of 2013, enplanements at the airport total 71,171, down 2.55% compared to the same period in 2012.

American Airlines also is the dominant carrier at XNA with 42.75% of all enplanements for the first 10 months of 2013. Delta is second with 27.13% of enplanements followed by United Airline at 15.21%. The airport has more than 10 service connections. For the first 10 months of the year, XNA enplanements total 489,666, up 2.8% compared to the same period in 2012.

John Parker, director of the Fort Smith Regional Airport, said he thinks the impact on Fort Smith will be different than when Delta and Northwest merged. That merger resulted in all flights east of Fort Smith stopping in Atlanta only instead of also in Memphis.

“We don’t foresee any immediate changes,” Parker said Monday.

He did say a possible change could be a positive for travelers out of Fort Smith.

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“On the positive side, I’ll say that you may have more travel options out of there (Dallas-Fort Worth). ... That may take some time for that happen, but you could see more routes open up,” Parker explained.

The City Wire was unsuccessful in attempts to contact XNA Director Kelly Johnson.

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