American Airlines & U.S. Airways Announce They’re Finally Getting Hitched

After spending years as just friends, American Airlines and U.S. Airways are taking their relationship to the next level with the official announcement today (Valentine’s Day, no less) that they’re merging. The heads of both say it’s been a long time coming but that now they’re ready to take the plunge and become the world’s No. 1 airline.

Since they’ve already been such good pals, the two top executives of AMR and U.S. Airways say they see clear skies ahead in this next phase of their corporate lives. They’ve got the blessing of both company’s boards, of course.

According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. Airways CEO Doug Parker will be the CEO at the new combined airline and Tom Horton, CEO of AMR, will be the nonexecutive chairman of the new board until spring 2014. At that time he’ll leave the board and Parker will move into the chairman title.

These two crazy kids sound like they’re over the moon about their impending nuptials, as Horton says Parker “will have traditional CEO duties in running the company.” Horton says he’ll do all the things a chairman usually does to run the board, but he will make his voice heard with his partner if need be.

“I won’t be bashful with my input,” said the AMR executive, “Neither will Doug. I think we’ll work well together.”

This move should take AMR out of bankruptcy protection and steer it past the antitrust magnifying glass. It’s going to be a quick engagement, as the twosome want to tie the knot and close the $11 billion stock swap in the third quarter of this year.

“It is helpful to me for Tom to stay around and help with the transition,” U.S. Airways’ Parker said, adding that it is “extremely important that the company sees one leader eventually.”

Both men are 51 and started their airline careers at American’s finance department in the mid-1980s and have kept in touch since then. It’s unclear where the two companies are registered but we’re sure they’ll soon be showered in all the linens and glassware they could ever want.

Now the merger just needs to be approved by the bankruptcy judge presiding over AMR’s restructuring as well as clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice and other regulators to ensure it’s not an antitrust situation.

“There was a little poker playing going on in the process,” Horton said of the courtship. “Once we got to the point where we had our house in order and could make a deal on the right terms, I think it clearly made sense for us, and made sense for US Airways.”

It will be interesting to see how this affects travelers, as usually when airlines merge it results in less competition which in turn translates into higher ticket prices.  So far the companies have promised to maintain their current eight hubs in the U.S. and their combined daily 6,700 daily flights to 336 destinations in 56 countries.

AMR, US Airways Chiefs Cite Long Friendship [Wall Street Journal]