What an American-US Airways merger means for you

A traveler passes through a corridor at Philadelphia International Airport Thursday in Philadelphia.
A traveler passes through a corridor at Philadelphia International Airport Thursday in Philadelphia. Matt Rourke/AP Photo

New York - While American Airlines and US Airways announced plans to merge Thursday, it will be several months, if not years, before passengers see any significant impact.

Passengers with existing tickets on American or US Airways - and members of both frequent flier programs - shouldn't fret. No changes will come anytime soon.

American's parent company, AMR Corp., is still under bankruptcy protection and will need the court to approve the deal. US Airways shareholders will also have to vote for a merger. Then the Department of Transportation and the Justice Department must sign off. Finally, once a deal closes, the new company could operate two separate airlines for a number of years. When the airlines finally do merge, here's what to expect:

Airfare

During the past five years, the airline industry has seen the combinations of Delta with Northwest, United with Continental and Southwest Airlines Co. with AirTran. Further consolidation is likely to raise airfares. The price of a domestic round-trip flight has climbed more than 11 percent since 2009, when adjusted for inflation, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The merger will give a combined American and US Airways Group Inc. the ability to increase fares. United, Delta and Southwest would be likely to follow.

Frequent flier miles

Your miles will be safe. After the merge is approved, the two airlines will likely combine the miles into one program and elite status from one airline will likely be honored on the other. That puts the occasional traveler closer to rewards.

Destinations

A key reason for merging is to link both airlines' networks, creating a system on par with Delta Air Lines and United, part of United Continental Holdings Inc.

There is little overlap between the two airlines' existing routes. The combined carrier will offer more than 6,700 daily flights to 336 destinations in 56 countries, making it more attractive to companies seeking to fly employees around the globe with few connections.

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