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US Airways-American merger to close Dec. 9

After overcoming American Airlines’ fierce initial resistance and a challenge from the U.S. Justice Department, the $17.2 billion merger of US Airways and American is set to close Dec. 9.

The merger will create the biggest airline in the world, with Charlotte Douglas International Airport as its second-busiest hub. Charlotte’s airport will be behind only Dallas/Fort Worth for the number of combined flights in the new airline.

The combined airline will be called American Airlines and remain headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, with US Airways CEO Doug Parker taking the top job at American. The new American will account for about 650 daily flights at Charlotte Douglas, more than 90 percent of the airport’s total.

The merger close date comes after a U.S. bankruptcy court judge gave the all-clear Wednesday for American to combine with US Airways and emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Earlier this month, US Airways and American agreed to give up dozens of takeoff and landing slots at Washington Reagan National Airport and New York LaGuardia Airport, as well as gates at a few other airports, to settle an antitrust lawsuit brought by the Justice Department.

Fliers won’t notice any immediate changes to the airlines, but the first effects of the merger will become visible next year.

“For our customers, it’s business as usual that day, and they will not see changes take effect until January, after the busy holiday travel season,” said US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr.

US Airways officials have said they plan to combine the airlines’ frequent flier programs starting in the first quarter next year, with reciprocal miles on both carriers. Customers soon will have reciprocal access to the airline’s clubs.

The process of completely combining the carriers likely will take years. There are hundreds of information technology systems to be integrated – one of the most important of which is their reservation systems – hundreds of planes to repaint, thousands of employees in unions to combine and work practices to standardize across the far-flung company.

At Charlotte Douglas, US Airways and American employees will have a party to celebrate the merger closing Dec. 9, but Mohr said no public events are planned. US Airways employs about 7,600 in Charlotte.

Portillo: 704-358-5041; Twitter: @ESPortillo
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