He expects to see more flights and connections at Charlotte Douglas.
"Charlotte's going to be just fine."
US Airways employs more than 7,100 people in Charlotte, many of them pilots and flight attendants. Parker and Horton also issued assurances Thursday that they don't plan mass layoffs at the new company, though they did say some management redundancies will be eliminated. Parker said that since the company doesn't plan to reduce flying, it will need most of its workers, and cuts will likely be handled through attrition.
He also said the combined company won't close any reservation centers -- more than 800 people work at a US Airways reservation center in Winston-Salem -- and that the company will keep its Charlotte flight training center, a multi-million dollar facility with full-size flight simulators where thousands of pilots train.
Most analysts concur with Parker that Charlotte's future as a hub airport is secure. "It makes money today. It will make more money with more feed. From that respect, I think it will be a major contributor to the network," said aviation analyst Bob Mann.
Horton said even if the airline cuts back, it plans to keep its hubs in place. "We recognize as market conditions change here, there will be some changes," he said. "It's going to be built on the notion that we're going to maintain and build on our previous hubs."
Analysts have raised concerns about other hubs as well. Phoenix could lose connecting traffic to Dallas/Fort Worth, an American hub, analysts have said. And JFK International Airport in New York could lose flights to Philadelphia International Airport, analyst Jamie Baker with J.P. Morgan said in a note Thursday. However, Baker also stressed that the combined company doesn't plan large capacity cuts.
Something for everyone
Parker won his merger in large part by giving something to everyone.
To the American unions, he offered the chance to avoid massive layoffs and pay cuts. To his own unions, he offered raises and unified contracts after years without them.
To American's creditors, he offered a plan that gave them full repayment and 72 percent ownership of the new company. To his shareholders, Parker offered 28 percent of a new, $11 billion airline with an international route network US Airways couldn't create on its own. And for hub cities and travelers, he said the merged airline won't significantly cut service.
The only people who didn't get what they had wanted were AMR chief executive Horton and his management team. Horton had initially fought the merger, saying American Airlines would emerge from bankruptcy alone and reclaim its top spot by ordering hundreds of new airplanes and growing capacity. He said American would consider a merger only after bankruptcy, and joked there must be "something in the water" at US Airways' headquarters that made them so keen to merge.
But Parker secured the support of unions and creditors early, avoiding the mistakes of his 2006 attempt to take over Delta Air Lines, which was rebuffed without creditors or workers on his side.
"We got in too late, and we didn't have both of those," Parker said of the Delta attempt. This time around, "Our view was that if we could create enough value for the creditors, that would win the day."
The merger will leave US Airways and American's creditors in the captain's chair at the new company. The combined carrier's board of directors will include Parker, Horton, two directors appointed by AMR and three by US Airways, and five directors appointed by AMR's creditors, with the directors to be named later.
Parker and Horton started their careers together at American Airlines. On Thursday, Parker reminisced about looking over his cubicle at his first job and seeing Horton. Parker will assume the role of chairman in addition to the CEO job when Horton bows out. Horton will receive $19.8 million in severance, split between stock and cash, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
"Tom was nice enough to hang around and help with the transition," Parker said Thursday, "but also kind enough to know once the transition was complete, the company needs to see one leader."
Horton quipped, "Don't mess it up."
"I'll try not to," said Parker.
Staff writers Mark Washburn and Andrew Dunn contributed.
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