What's ahead if American, US Airways merge

The federal government says the proposed merger of

The federal government says the proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways would cause "substantial harm" to consumers by leading to higher fares and fees. Photo Credit: AP

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American Airlines and US Airways said last week they have started merger discussions, but even if they agree on a deal, it could be several years before passengers see any impact.

Passengers with existing tickets on American or US Airways -- and members of both frequent flier programs -- shouldn't fret. No changes will come anytime soon.

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Assuming quick merger negotiations, American's parent company, AMR Corp., would still have to work its way through the bankruptcy process. Then the Department of Transportation and the Justice Department would have to sign off on it. Once a deal closes, the new company could operate two separate airlines for a number of years. If the airlines finally merge, here's what passengers can expect:

Airfare: In the past decade the airline industry has seen the combinations of Delta with Northwest, United with Continental and Southwest with AirTran. Further consolidation is likely to raise airfares. The price of a domestic round-trip flight has climbed nearly 20 percent, when adjusted for inflation, over the last 10 years, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Frequent flier miles: Your miles would be safe. Eventually, the airlines would merge the miles into one program. Before then, elite status from one airline would likely be honored on the other and passengers would be able to transfer miles from one program to another.

Destinations: American serves about 250 cities in 40 countries; US Airways has 200 destinations in 28 countries. There is some overlap. In past mergers, airlines have dramatically reduced service in once-key cities. -- AP

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