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    Many hurdles for merged airline

    US Airways CEO Doug Parker will head up the combined airline.
    US Airways CEO Doug Parker will head up the combined airline.

    DALLAS — US Airways chief executive Doug Parker has landed the big merger he sought for years. Now the soon-to-be CEO of the new American Airlines has to make it work.

    Planes need painting. Frequent flier programs have to be combined. And the new airline will still be weak in Asia and need to win back business travelers who have been drifting away to other airlines.

    The two airlines announced an $11 billion merger Thursday that will turn American into the world’s biggest airline, with some 6,700 daily flights and annual revenue of roughly $40 billion. It’s a coup for Parker, who runs the much smaller US Airways and has long pursued a deal like this one with the strong belief that airlines would have a better shot at consistent profits if they bulk up through mergers.


    The latest deal will mean that the four biggest US airlines are all the product of mergers that began in 2008. Those deals bring benefits, but they also show that putting together two airlines smoothly is not easy.

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    Some of the work on the latest combination has already been done. Pilots from both airlines have agreed to the outlines of a deal that should make it much easier to get a final, joint contract. And Parker is inclined to use American’s computer systems such as those that track reservations and passenger information, he said on a conference call. He said past mergers have shown that it’s easier to use the bigger airline’s technology.

    The new carrier is going to be called American Airlines and be based in Fort Worth. The deal is expected to close by the end of September, as part of American’s emergence from Chapter 11 protection.

    Even after that, travelers on American and US Airways won’t notice immediate changes. It likely will be months before the frequent flier programs are combined and years before the airlines are fully integrated.

    Parker sought a merger almost as soon as American parent AMR Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011.


    As Parker pushed ahead, creditors forced AMR’s management to consider the value of a merger.

    Eventually they concluded that the best return for stakeholders, and the best chance to compete with bigger rivals, came from a merger.

    The deal also caps turbulent decade of bankruptcies and consolidation for US airlines.

    The rapid consolidation has allowed the surviving airlines to offer bigger route networks that appeal to high-paying business travelers. And it has allowed them to limit the supply of seats, which helps prop up fares and airline profits.

    That concerns some consumer advocates, but Parker sought to assure travelers that the merger helps them too — by creating a bigger rival to United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.


    ‘‘There are two very large airlines right now and this creates a third,’’ Parker said in an interview. ‘‘It provides good competition to those two.’’

    Most airline mergers have resulted in a reduction of flights and shrinkage at some hubs, but Parker said this deal will be different because US Airways and American overlap on just 12 routes.

    The boards of both companies approved the deal Wednesday. Executives said they were confident of court and regulatory approval.

    AMR creditors will own 72 percent of the new company, with the remaining 28 percent going to US Airways shareholders.

    The airlines said they expect $1.05 billion in combined benefits from the merger.

    They expect the bigger airline to lure corporate travelers away from competitors, contributing to $900 million in additional revenue. They also anticipate cost savings of roughly $150 million.