US Airways Group Inc. and American Airlines parent AMR Corp. are moving closer to a merger, and a decision could come early next month, people familiar with the matter said.
Teams from each carrier are discussing how to combine departments, including personnel, compensation and severance, said the people, who asked not to be identified because details are private.
AMRs board will meet Jan. 9 to decide whether to go ahead, with an announcement possible within days, said the people. The talks may yet be scuttled or delayed, they said.
Thursday evening, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, a union representing American workers, said it had been invited to join confidential merger talks with management from both companies and the unsecured creditors. The addition of another labor group adds further momentum to the merger talks.
The push follows AMRs efforts to reorganize in bankruptcy court before a merger and US Airways quest to lead a takeover that would create the worlds largest airline.
The chief unresolved issues pending with AMRs unsecured creditors committee, which must approve any exit plan, are how to divide the equity in a new company and who would run it, three people said.
It does seem like there is an inevitability about a merger, with the main issue whether they do it in bankruptcy or out, said Michael Derchin, a CRT Capital Group LLC analyst.
US Airways operates about 90 percent of daily flights from Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and more than 7,100 US Airways employees are based in the city.
The combined company would be named American Airlines, meaning the end of the US Airways name, and would be run from Americans headquarters city of Fort Worth, Texas.
US Airways President Scott Kirby and Denise Lynn, senior vice president for people at American, have been involved in talks with pilots from each carrier, along with Jack Butler, the attorney for the creditors panel, two people said.
Kirby is leading the merger analysis for US Airways Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker, people familiar with his role have said.
AMR is actively taking part in ongoing discussions with its pilots, US Airways and the smaller airlines pilots, Michael Trevino, a spokesman, said in an emailed response to questions.
Parker, Kirby and Butler met Wednesday in Charlotte with the board of the US Airline Pilots Association, which represents US Airways pilots, said James Ray, a union spokesman. He declined to comment on the substance of the talks. A US Airways spokesman declined to comment.
US Airways shares rose slightly to close at $13.54. The stock price has more than doubled this year on merger speculation. Observer staff writer Ely Portillo contributed.