CHARLOTTE, N.C. (TheStreet) -- From the day Stephen Wolf selected the name US Airways in 1996, Charlotte Douglas International Airport has been the heart and soul of the airline.
So the airport celebration Monday of the deal that will put an end to the name, and to the airport's primacy, was bittersweet.
More sweet than bitter, though, because now the airport built by Jerry Orr over the past four decades seems destined to survive indefinitely as one of just two major air transportation hubs in the southeastern United States, home to 80 million people.
The deal combines US Airways with American, under the American name and the new stock symbol AAL. In Dallas on Monday, CEO Doug Parker, formerly CEO of America West and then of US Airways, and now CEO of American, rang the opening bell for Nasdaq. Dallas is the largest hub; Charlotte is second.
The day's bitter aspect was the awareness of what will be lost. Sometime in 2014 or 2015, the US Airways name will disappear.
Wolf, then CEO, chose the name to replace "USAir," hoping to recognize the integration of Piedmont and US Air under a classier brand name that resembled British Airways, at around the time that Charlotte began to eclipse Pittsburgh as the airline's biggest hub. US Airways is the last surviving pre-deregulation airline, other than big three American, Delta (DAL - Get Report) and United (UAL) plus Southwest (LUV).
Additionally, Orr is currently airport director in name only, presiding over an airport authority that so far has been out-maneuvered in an effort to take over airport oversight. If the authority fails, Orr's career will become collateral damage in a battle between Charlotte Democrats and Raleigh Republicans for control of the airport and its hundreds of millions of dollars in annual cash flow. The politicians' singular focus on power trumped any awareness that Orr somehow built a world-class airport in a medium-sized southern city.
Without vast success in Charlotte, US Airways would have been a far less desirable merger partner. So Monday was Orr's day too.
Pope first worked at Charlotte Douglas when she was brought in from Boston to help implement the Piedmont merger. She worked to coordinate changes in reservations including policies involving ticketing and gate and curbside procedures -- the sort of details that form the guts of an airline's operations. The transition took two years. She left temporarily to be station manager in West Palm Beach, Fla.
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