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The USAirways/American merger: A poor deal still

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

No matter what the analysts think about the merger of USAirways and American Airlines to create the world's largest airline — and too many blindly think it's great — Pittsburgh will suffer the consequences.

The airlines and the Justice Department announced on Tuesday they had cut a deal that the government says will make a decidedly competition-limiting merger more competitive. The combined airline is giving up a number of landing slots at several major airports, which should, in theory, boost competing carriers and limit monopoly-fueled fare hikes.

But the concessions should be considered bogus, given that consolidation after the merger would have led to pretty much the same result. As The Wall Street Journal notes, the deal affects only 112 of the new carrier's planned 6,500 daily flights. For some reason, Justice got cold feet on this one.

And even though the deal also guarantees current service levels in Pittsburgh — 56 daily flights to 13 locales — for five years, the new American, to be headed by USAirways boss Doug Parker, will shaft the region once more.

It's pretty much a fait accompli that a flight operations center in Moon, subsidized by millions of public dollars, will be mothballed. About 600 jobs will be lost. It's a not-so-fun parting gift from the same airline that abandoned Pittsburgh as a hub after it snookered local leaders into building to its specifications a billion-dollar-plus new airport.

Thought to be safer here are the jobs of 700 heavy-maintenance employees. But with Mr. Parker, “safer” can be a relative term. And if past is prologue, Doug Parker will deliver yet another shaft.

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