Just days after American Airlines’ pilots signed off on a merger plan with US Airways, flight attendants appear poised to approve their own deal.
"A merger is the best thing for the company, the unions and the passengers,” Association of Professional Flight Attendants president Laura Glading said late Tuesday. “It has to happen."
Glading said she would probably recommend that her union approve a “memorandum of understanding” soon. The deal is essentially an integration plan with their counterparts at US Airways.
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A merger between the two carriers – which would create the world’s largest airline -- appears more likely than ever, analysts say, even as other major obstacles remain.
"It's going to be extremely interesting,” said airline analyst Denny Kelly. "The main reason there will be a merger is they have to merge. They don't have any choice. American is going to find it extremely difficult to compete with Delta and United.”
Fort Worth-based American has been mired in bankruptcy for more than a year. Airline executives have said they are studying a merger with US Airways or possibly another airline. But it’s unclear whether it would happen before or after the airline emerges from bankruptcy.
The board of directors of American’s parent company, AMR Corp., is set to meet Jan. 9.
The Allied Pilots Association approved a merger deal on Saturday. Pilots at US Airways are expected to consider the proposal in the next few days.
Kelly said combining large workforces is always full of pitfalls.
""There are going to be people who aren't going to like it,” he said.
Another question is: Who will control a combined airline?
Analysts say US Airways’ CEO Doug Parker would likely take the reins if the deal goes through soon.
But American CEO Tom Horton's odds could go up if the process drags on.
"He wants to run the world's largest airline. And at the minimum, he probably wants to be the head of American if they can come out of bankruptcy alone, without the merger,” Kelly said.
American issued a statement on Saturday saying it remains “actively engaged” in merger talks but stressed that no final decision has been made.
“We remain committed in our efforts to secure the best outcome for our financial stakeholders, our people and our customers,” spokesman Mike Trevino said.