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Hedge Funds Can't Fix the Airlines

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Since the airline industry cumulatively has failed to make money since the Wright Brothers first flew, it might seem reasonable to let the hedge funds take over.

But it's hard to imagine there is any real likelihood for successfully executing the scheme, floated last week by hedge fund Pardus Capital Management, to merge Delta (DAL) and UAL's (UAUA) United Airlines.

And it's important to remember that hedge funds' attention spans are brief, often extending only to the interval necessary to generate short-term boosts in the price of their holdings.

Pardus stirred things up in the airline industry, releasing a letter last week that urged a merger between Delta and United. In the letter, Pardus said it had commissioned a study that endorsed the merger, had met with the airlines, laid out a formula for share distributions and selected a management team.

On Friday, the fund joined with Merrill Lynch to host an investor meeting to discuss industry consolidation.

Not to say that Pardus got ahead of itself, but it should be noted that Delta and United say they have not even spoken with one another about a merger.

On Thursday, Delta CEO Richard Anderson reiterated as much before a Congressional committee. Questions had arisen because the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal both reported last week that some level of contact did occur.

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