The long-rumored merger of USAirways and American Airlines, which could be announced as early as today, may not mean too much for Capital Region fliers — at least on the surface.
Yes, the USAirways name is expected to go away, but the service will essentially be the same. American, which is struggling to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, can hardly afford to re-commit to the Albany market it left five years ago and USAirways isn’t flying very high, either.
Indeed a merger is probably a matter of survival for both companies. The big question is what it will mean for consumers in general. Higher fares seem the likely answer. USAirways and American don’t compete against one another in Albany anymore, but they do in other cities — including places that Capital Region residents fly. So fares, which have risen 8 percent and 4.5 percent respectively nationally over the last two years, could continue to rise.
They have done so noticeably in Albany since the latest round of mergers began eight years ago, when USAirways combined with America West. Since then, Southwest has merged with AirTran, Delta with Northwest and United with Continental.
It would likewise be hard to argue that service has improved as a result of any of these marriages, and working up much enthusiasm for this one, assuming it does get consummated, isn’t very easy, either.