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US Merger Would Create World's Largest Airline

A US Airways Express plane departs from a gate past an American Airlines plane at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington County, Virginia, February 10, 2013.
Two U.S. airline companies, American Airlines and US Airways, have announced a merger that would create the world's largest airline.

In a message to its customers, American Airlines said Thursday it has been working for nearly two years building a strong foundation by transforming its fleet with the largest aircraft order in history. It described the news as "exciting and historic."

The boards of the two airlines agreed to the merger late Wednesday.

US Airways / American Airlines Combined International Route Map (US Airways)
US Airways / American Airlines Combined International Route Map (US Airways)
American Airlines, which was already the biggest passenger airline in the United States, will retain its name in the merger.

The combined company will have about 94,000 employees and a fleet of more than 900 planes servicing thousands of flights every day.

Industry analyst Richard Aboulafia, vice president of the Teal Group, said he expects travelers to benefit from the merger.

“It’s likely to mean easier connectivity because you’re going to have a bigger route network with more passengers traveling through it. That means basically more options, more travel choices and certainly more possibility of flying through a hub and changing planes on your way to an international destination,” Aboulafia said.

The American Airlines-US Airways merger is the latest of its kind in the U.S. aviation industry in the past decade, leaving just four major U.S. airlines -- American, Delta, United and Southwest.

US Airways pursued a merger since the larger American Airlines began operating under bankruptcy protection in late 2011. US Airways overcame American's initial refusal to the idea by winning support from its competitor's three major unions, which were unhappy with American Airlines management about contract concessions.

The move convinced American's creditors that a merger would allow the airline to remain in business.

The merger will still have to be approved by U.S. federal regulators and the judge handling the American's bankruptcy.

US Airways most recently declared bankruptcy in 2004, but restructured and came out of it in 2005.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.