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Airlines deal to alter little at Pittsburgh airport, analysts say

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By Thomas Olson
Saturday, April 21, 2012, 12:39 p.m.
 

If US Airways were to merge with bankrupt American Airlines, such a combination would have little impact at Pittsburgh International Airport, airline experts said on Friday.

American is in the early stages of reorganizing in Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Ft. Worth, where it's based. Parent AMR Corp. has not submitted its formal reorganization plan, but US Airways Group wants to take over the carrier.

"Our intention would be to put our two complementary networks together, maintaining both airlines' existing hubs and aircraft, and create an airline that could compete successfully with United, Delta and other carriers within our industry," said US Airways chief executive Doug Parker in a letter to employees yesterday.

"A merger wouldn't have much effect on Pittsburgh at all," said Mike Boyd, an analyst and consultant at The Boyd Group, Evergreen, Colo., who has worked with Pittsburgh International over the years.

Boyd said American's route network is "weak" on the East Coast, so it could benefit by combining with US Airways, whose routes are heavily concentrated on the East Coast.

"It wouldn't add much flying in Pittsburgh, but it wouldn't take any flights away either," he said.

US Airways operates 43 daily flights at Pittsburgh International, and American operates 12. US Airways, the airport's largest carrier, flew 151,758 passengers at the airport in February, according to the latest data from the Allegheny County Airport Authority. American flew 42,928 passengers that month, roughly tied with Continental for fifth-most.

Bradley Penrod, the authority's executive director, said it was too early to estimate what the local impact would be.

"They have just started the process. So it's premature to say," Penrod said.

In Pittsburgh, US Airways employs 1,815 people, more than one-third of whom are mechanics, plus another 11 for its regional airline subsidiary Piedmont. American employs 41 people locally, all at its American Eagle subsidiary.

Boyd also thinks that if the airlines merged, the combined carrier would retain US Airways' modern, flight operations control center, which opened in Moon in late 2008.

AMR has asked the court for permission to void union contracts and cut 13,000 jobs. Such plans led three airline unions representing about 55,000 American pilots, flight attendants and mechanics to disclose on Thursday their support for US Airways' possible takeover of American.

A merged airline would save at least 6,200 of the 13,000 jobs that would be lost under American's go-it-alone plan, Parker said.

Parker cautioned his employees that the union deal does not mean a merger is in the works. A deal would need support from the AMR creditors management team and its board of directors, he noted.

"But this is obviously an important first step along that path and we are hopeful we can all work together to make this happen," Parker said.

 

 
 


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