A closer look at the US Airways / America West merger

Our friends at Frommers.com put US Airways through an interesting test run to see how the newly merged (with America West) airline is performing. The verdict? Decidedly so-so, reports Frommers' Sascha Segan.

Segan writes that the merger won't lead to lots of flight cuts because of the diversity of the two airlines' route maps, with US Airways predominantly covering the East Coast, Caribbean, and Europe, and America West covering Mexico and the (you guessed it) American West. In fact, the two lines overlap in just 38 out of 398 airports.

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But while Frommers has good things to say about the new airline's potential, it's not impressed with the here and now. To wit: Both lines still have separate websites and (worse yet) different prices depending on which site you use to book your flight. For what it's worth, Segan gives the edge to US Airways' website, calling it "the more flexible of the two sites."

This flies with our own findings as well, though I'm inclined to give them both an 'F' at this point. The airlines merged in September; we have a right to expect the public face(s) of the new carrier to be on the same page now, more than four months later. No one should have to look at both US Airways' and America West's website to determine which has the better sale.

Segan also weighs in on the various rules and restrictions for the two airlines once you get to the airport or take to the skies, calling them "terribly confusing" and pointing out that the mess could continue until April of 2007. What mess? Things like America West passengers checking in through a different line than US Airways passengers for the same flight. Only in the airline industry could a corporation get away with this.

Then there's the issue of frequent flyer miles. The February issue of Inside Flyer magazine speculates that we may see the combination of the two miles programs by early spring of this year. That would be a good start, but in the meantime America West flyers still can't use their miles to fly on US Airways' partners—a drawback that's wholly unacceptable at this stage in the game.

Airline mergers are complicated things. I get that. But do they need to be this complicated? So far, I'm not impressed.

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