bankruptcy filing is no doubt viewed as an opportunity by
, which has long seen a merger with a major carrier as the best way to assure its long-term survival.
US Airways CEO Doug Parker has said frequently that bankruptcy court is the best place to accomplish a merger, because a filing enables reductions in labor costs and reduction or elimination of lease costs for aircraft, airport space and office space.
In the past seven years, Parker has bid for four airlines, three of which were in bankruptcy. In 2004, as CEO of America West, he
bid for bankrupt
. In 2005, he oversaw a merger with bankrupt US Airways.
In 2006, he bid for bankrupt
(DAL - Get Report)
. In 2008, he sought a merger with
(UAL - Get Report)
, following a course set by predecessor Steven Wolf, who pursued United in 2000.
Now, in every corner of the airline industry, speculation abounds that Parker will make a move on American in bankruptcy court.
Here is an example of the intensity of the continuing speculation. In mid-October, Mike Cleary, president of the US Airline Pilots Association, which represents US Airways pilots, visited Dallas to meet with Eric Ferguson, a leader of the
pilots. Cleary sought to extend an olive branch in hopes of resolving a long-simmering seniority dispute between the two pilot groups at otherwise merged US Airways.
"News of Cleary being spotted at DFW almost immediately made its way onto the Web boards, which seemed to stoke the AA merger rumors for a few days thereafter," wrote Ferguson, in a message to the America West pilots. Despite a pleasant conversation, Ferguson noted, no resolution materialized. But that does not mean the dispute will impede a merger.
In fact, at US Airways, where the airline's history reflects
a continuing series of mergers
, most employees fully expect management to aggressively pursue American.
"The American bankruptcy, while unfortunate for American employees and for the company, presents an opportunity for US Airways," said Mike Flores, president of the US Airways chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants.