As the drumbeat portending a US Airways-American merger get ever louder, the attention has shifted from if or when the two airlines will become one to who will lead the new company.
The two companies have vastly different corporate cultures, different business strategies, different values, different relationships with their customers.
Inevitably, the new American (assuming that's the surviving name) will either be more like the current American or more like the current US Airways. And which of those models is ascendant largely depends on whether the American or the US Airways management team ends up in control of the new company.
As the company in bankruptcy, American is the weaker of the two companies, which should give US Airways the upper hand when it comes to negotiating the merged companies' future management structure.
Indeed, most stakeholders—investors, unions, debt holders—have lost faith in American's leadership and appear anxious for a change at the top.
The single group that deplores the US Airways takeover scenario is one that has virtually no say in the outcome: the traveling public.
The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports that discussions are currently underway that would have US Airways chief Doug Parker as the new company's CEO, and American's Tom Horton as the chairman.
That would allow American to save face, but relegate Horton to a largely ceremonial role. Effectively, US Airways will have taken over American.
What will be the world's largest airline, in passenger-traffic terms, will look like American. But under its skin will beat the heart of a very different company—one that has succeeded financially but failed to win the loyalty of its own customers.
Reader Reality Check
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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.