A US Airways tail rest on the tarmac near two American Airlines planes.

Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images

Merger With US Airways Might be a Challenge, Could Save Some AA Jobs

  • Joe Wertz

Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images

A US Airways tail rest on the tarmac near two American Airlines planes.

US Airways has made deals with labor unions at American Airlines to win support for a merger.

A merger could save almost half of the 13,000 jobs likely to be eliminated by American, whose parent company, AMR Corp., is operating under bankruptcy protection.

But a merger might not be so easy.

American’s unions represent 55,000 pilots, flight attendants and ground workers. The three unions endorse a potential merger with US Airways, but the plan would need the support of AMR’s creditors, management and board of directors, the Associated Press reported on Friday.

There are other challenges, reports the Tulsa World’s D.R. Stewart, including combining two different aircraft fleets and route systems, and integrating separate workforces and their respective unions.

“What on earth are they going to do with all those unions – the Transport Workers Union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, and the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents (American’s regional airline affiliate) American Eagle pilots,” said Eric Smith, a Pittsburgh bankruptcy and aviation attorney.

US Airways had a hard time integrating workforces with America West Airlines when the two merged in 2005, Smith told the paper.

Nearly all of America West’s employees were junior to US Airways’ workers, news reports show, which made merging airline seniority lists a nightmare.

Smith said he expects similar difficulties if American and US Airways merge.

US Airways Group Inc.’s CEO, Doug Parker, said a merger could save about 6,200 jobs at American, the AP reports. AMR Corp. CEO Thomas Horton would rather his company remain independent, “but is open to a merger after his company emerges from bankruptcy protection,” according to the AP.

Friday’s gambit by US Airways and the American Airlines unions could complicate Horton’s strategy, however.