US Airways CEO mentions mergers

Posted by admin on April 17, 2008
photo by caribb
In a letter sent to employees yesterday, US Airways CEO Doug Parker said that “airlines are going to have to make dramatic changes” if they want to survive. Although he said that he couldn’t “comment on any specific discussions or transaction,” he said that the media have suggested that US Airways is in merger talks with United and that American would make a good match as well. “Rest assured,” said Parker, “if US Airways chooses to participate in any industry consolidation, we will do so because we believe it is the best interests of our employees and our airline.”

Would US Airways be a good match for United, which has been seeking out merger partners? They already code-share (a benefit that the Delta/Northwest combination has), and US Airways has a strong presence in the Northeast and Southeast (two areas where United’s route structure is weaker). But I don’t see US Airways’ route network as being as much of a plus for an airline like United, which needs more international routes. Of the six largest legacy carriers, US Airways has the smallest international route network. United might prefer a rumored merger with Continental to one with US Airways.

US Airways still has problems of its own, too, from its last merger (between US Airways and America West). And let’s not forget that the last time United and US Airways tried to merge, it was rejected by the Justice Department on anti-trust grounds.

By the way, here’s the original message sent out by Parker (posted on the US Aviation boards):

From: Corporate Communications
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 8:36 AM
To: Corporate Communications
Subject: USNews Now: An Important Message from CEO Doug Parker
Importance: High

An Important Message from CEO Doug Parker

April 16, 2008

Dear Fellow Employees,

With the recent news of a potential Delta/Northwest merger, analysts and media are speculating about the next potential combination. While we had hoped to remain on the sidelines of this speculation, today’s Wall Street Journal suggests we may be in merger talks with United and another article in the Dallas Morning News suggests we might make a good merger partner for American.

While I can’t comment on any specific discussions or transaction I certainly didn’t want you to hear this speculation without hearing directly from me about what this might mean for US Airways.

Most of you know my views on consolidation and those have not changed. Our industry is far too fragmented and consolidation, if done properly, could result in a much healthier industry which would be good for our employees, our customers and the communities we serve. Rest assured if US Airways chooses to participate in any industry consolidation, we will do so because we believe it is the best interests of our employees and our airline.

Despite all of the challenges of merging two airlines, we are a much stronger company today as a result of the merger of US Airways and America West. We posted the highest pre-tax margin of the big six airlines in 2006 and even with our operational challenges we posted the second highest pre-tax margin in 2007.

And we have an improving airline. We’ve made great strides with our operational improvement plan, including top three performances in on-time arrivals for three consecutive months. As we continue through 2008, we feel extremely good about our ability to continue to improve our operational performance relative to the industry.

But we can’t ignore what’s happening in the world around us. Oil has risen to over $113 per barrel and Wall Street is anticipating a recession that, if it happens, will lower all airline revenues. And the DL/NW combination potentially creates a formidable competitor. In that world, all airlines are going to have to make dramatic changes to their existing business models in order to be viable.

I know airline merger speculation can be distracting so for now, I encourage all of us to remain focused on running a great airline. Our work on the reliability, convenience and appearance initiatives continues and we are running an extremely reliable airline as a result. Whatever we do, we will always take great care to ensure the path we choose returns value to our shareholders and customers, and also provides long-term stability for our employees.

Thanks for all you do for our customers and keep up the great work.

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