U.S. Airways-American Merger to Spur Robust Competition,
Better Customer Service: UMD-Smith Expert
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Improved customer service driven by robust
competition lies ahead of the new U.S. Airways-American Airlines merger,
says Michael Ball, a University of Maryland expert on transportation
systems and airport operations.
(Ball co-directs NEXTOR, the National Center of Excellence for Aviation
Operations Research. He oversees the Collaborative Decision Making research
project for the center, which is funded by the FAA, NASA and other airline
The move creates the world's largest carrier in a market dominated by four
airlines. "The merger is a natural, almost inevitable evolution of the U.S.
airline industry. The newly combined carrier, together with Delta, United and
Southwest, will represent a strong group of competitors – each having a robust
national footprint," says Ball, associate dean for faculty and research and
Dean’s Chair in Management Science in UMD's Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Fares could increase in a limited number of markets due to reduced
competition. But overall, and especially long-term, the merger will be
advantageous for passengers, Ball says. "The four strong competitors will
generally expand their national footprints, creating greater competition. In
addition, as the airlines individually become healthier, they will be able to
focus more on improving customer service and providing more innovative services,
which should improve the customer experience."
Look for consolidated service and fewer flights in some markets, such as
Charlotte-LaGuardia, he adds. "This is consistent with the impact of previous
mergers and generally should be viewed as positive, reducing overall congestion
Ball also projects realignment of the combined U.S. Airways-American network,
including some consolidation of the existing Dallas and Phoenix hub operations.
"Most likely operations will be reduced at Phoenix with some potential increase
in Dallas. No doubt there will be some rethinking of the combined strategy at
Philadelphia and (New York) Kennedy, especially service to Europe with
associated connections," he says. "The eventual outcome is hard to predict, but
certainly changes will take place."
While the combined U.S. Airways-American corporation has potential to be much
stronger than the two as individual carriers, Ball cautions "a successful merger
is by no means an easy task."
He says each airline today has different union representation, different sets
of policies and procedures, different fleet characteristics and different
operational control and planning systems. "A high degree of care and flexibility
on the part of management and employees and investment of time and resources
will be necessary. While it is unlikely that poor performance in these areas
would derail the merger, it is certainly possible to induce a very long lag
before a strong and robust combined airline would emerge."
Ball can be contacted at 301-405-2227 or
About the Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader
in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the
University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate,
full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive
education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The
school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning
locations in North America and Asia.