The merger between American and US Airways is now a lock to secure the necessary regulatory approvals and will probably close by the end of this year.
The merger’s approval last week by the two airlines’ boards was predicated on the deal’s favorable treatment of affected shareholders, creditors, top managers, and unions.
But there’s been nary a nod to another key stakeholder group, the traveling public, which will ultimately play a major role in determining the new company’s financial fortunes.
There have been a few consumer-focused analyses of the merger by the likes of Consumer Traveler, the Business Travel Coalition, and, yes, myself. But the voices of travelers themselves have been mostly unheard.
So, what do flyers think of the merger?
We posed that question in two polls on FlyerTalk, and the responses were overwhelmingly negative.
In one poll, readers were asked for a simple yay or nay response to the merger: “Is an American Airlines/US Airways merger good for the traveling public?” A solid 71.7 percent were against the merger, with just 28.3 percent in favor.
In a second poll, readers were invited to rate the merger on a five-point scale, ranging from highly positive to neutral to highly negative. The results:
- 3.6 percent: This is the best of all possible worlds; great idea!
- 22.3 percent: This portends a stronger airline, with some changes for all.
- 24.5 percent: I am neutral – pros and cons for all.
- 26.7 percent: I think this is a somewhat bad idea with some real challenges.
- 23.0 percent: I am completely opposed to this merger; terrible idea!
Once again, the naysayers far outdistanced the supporters.
Customer Matters Matter
Travelers’ opinions, whether pro or con, so far have proven to be irrelevant as far as the merger’s progress and prospects go. And they will continue to be. The Department of Justice’s review will focus almost exclusively on the tie-up’s impact on competition in jointly served markets. The effects on airfare industrywide, service levels, frequent flyer programs and other consumer concerns simply will not be part of the calculation.
The merger will be approved and implemented, no matter what flyers think.
But eventually, consumer sentiment will translate into loyalty and revenue. If the new American hopes to take advantage of its position as the world’s largest airline, it will have to address consumers’ distrust and apprehension. “Big and bad” is not a recipe for financial success.
Much has been made, rightly, of the difficulties posed by integrating the two companies’ very complex operations. Getting passengers onboard, physically and emotionally, is just as important and may prove to be just as challenging.
Reader Reality Check
Do you favor or oppose the merger?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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