George Hoffer, transportation economist at the University of Richmond, said the improvement customers could expect is better service in mid-sized cities — “not the smiley glad-you’re-aboard stuff, but when there’s mechanical or weather [issues], they will have more options.”
In Thursday’s interview, Horton said the carrier has been ordering new planes and working to improve the passenger experience. American and parent company AMR filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011 and have since revealed several changes to the fleet and operations as it restructures.
Chris Sloan, who runs the airline news website Airchive.com, said he expects US Airways to bring its standards up to the new levels that American has reached.
“American has set a real flag in the ground: relaunched domestic product, major service enhancements in terms of WiFi, new seating,” said Sloan, producer of the Travel Channel series Airport 24/7: Miami. “Coach is always going to be coach, but certainly they’ve made a lot of enhance- ments.”
The new airline will have some 6,700 daily flights and annual revenue of roughly $40 billion. US Airways CEO Doug Parker, who started pursuing the deal after American filed for bankruptcy, will be CEO of the new airline; after Horton’s departure, he will become chairman as well.
The deal is expected to close by the end of September, as part of American’s emergence from Chapter 11 protection. No major hurdles are expected. Pilots from both airlines have agreed to the outlines of a deal that should make it much easier to get a final, joint contract. A group of unsecured creditors has already agreed to terms.
Some travelers interviewed at Miami International Airport Thursday worried about their own wallets in light of the deal.
“It’s probably going to hurt the consumer, but it helps the two airlines because they’re falling farther and farther behind Delta and United,” said Bill Naumes, a retired business professor from New Hampshire who was flying on American. “There are going to be fewer choices, so I think the prices are going to go up.”
But Hobica said that with newer, more fuel-efficient jets, he doesn’t anticipate fare hikes.
“I don’t see the need to raise fares,” he said. “If they do, people will just stay home or drive.”
Miami Herald staff writers Jane Wooldridge and Maria LaMagna contributed to this report, which was supplemented with information from the Associated Press.
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