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    Quick Take

  • The combined US Airways-American network will be on par with the networks of United and Delta especially in the important east coast markets of the United States.
  • A strong domestic U.S. network will help the new American Airlines catalyze international growth as domestic traffic feeds in to the international network.

Among U.S. airlines, United (NYSE:UAL) and Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) have the largest networks in both the U.S. and international markets. However, post the merger between American Airlines and US Airways (NYSE:LCC), the combined network of these two carriers will occupy the leadership position in several markets and overall will prove to be a formidable competitor for both United and Delta.

In 2012, United had the largest service network with flying capacity of nearly 249 billion seat miles [United’s 2012 10-K, February 25 2013, unitedcontinentalholdings.com]. Delta occupied second spot with flying capacity of around 230 billion seat miles [Delta’s 2012 10-K, February 13 2013, delta.com]. In comparison, American Airlines and US Airways had flying capacities of 166 billion seat miles and 88 billion seat miles, respectively [American Airlines 2012 10-K, February 20 2013, aa.com], [US Airways 2012 10-K, February 20 2013, usairways.com]. Thus, post merger, the new American Airlines will be the third U.S. carrier to have a network comparable to that of United and Delta.

We currently have a stock price estimate of $18.60 for US Airways, around 8% ahead of its current market price.

The Combined US Airways-American Network Will Likely Be The Strongest In The U.S.

American Airlines with its hubs at Dallas/Fort Worth, New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles has a large network in the domestic U.S. market. However, the carrier does not have the network to fly customers up and down the east coast, which is one of the most lucrative markets in the U.S. US Airways through its east coast hubs at Philadelphia and Charlotte and with a significant presence in Washington DC can plug this gap in American Airlines’ domestic network to position the combined network at par with those of United and Delta.

For instance, at Buffalo, American Airlines offers five daily flights to only one destination – Chicago. In comparison, Delta offers 26 daily flights at Buffalo connecting four destinations – Minneapolis, Detroit, Atlanta and New York – and United offers 19 daily flights connecting four destinations – Chicago, Cleveland, Washington DC and New York [US Airways address at Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2013 Global Transportation Conference, May 15 2013, usairways.com]. Now, a corporate traveler from Buffalo will opt for the frequent flier (NYSE:FF) program of either Delta or/and United, but not American, as the service offered by American is very limited. Additionally, once registered with the FF program, corporate travelers generally stick to that airline as it brings more elite benefits. And, let’s not forget that corporate travelers are the bread and butter of network carriers. Thus, a limited network at Buffalo stands in the way of American’s growth while the larger networks of Delta and United are bringing revenue synergies.

Following the merger with US Airways, these dynamics at Buffalo will change drastically as the combined network of US Airways and American will offer 23 daily flights at Buffalo to five destinations – Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Charlotte. Further, this will happen not just at Buffalo but also at many other east coast cities like Ottawa, Syracuse, White Plains, Rochester, Harrisburg, Richmond, Cincinnati, Dayton, Louisville, Greenville, Greensboro, Knoxville, Huntsville, Memphis, New Orleans, Charleston, Baton Rouge, Savannah and Birmingham. A significant portion of the $900 million network revenue synergies that are expected from the American-US Airways merger will likely come from this region.

Overall, in terms of market share, American occupies the fifth position in the east coast and fourth position in the mid-west and the west coast markets while US Airways holds the third position in the east coast and fifth and sixth positions in the mid-west and the west coast markets, respectively. Post merger, the combined network will occupy the top position in the east coast and the mid-west markets and third position in the west coast markets. Thus, the combined network of US Airways and American will be one of the strongest in the domestic U.S. market.

The US Airways-American Network Will Have A Leading Presence In Latin America

In the long term, this strong domestic network will catalyze the merged carrier’s international growth as the domestic network feeds in to the international network. In the near term, the new American Airlines will have a European network which will be at par with that of United and Delta. It will also have the largest network of any U.S. carrier in Latin America, but a significantly smaller presence than United or Delta in the Asian markets. However, at a recent conference, US Airways emphasized that post merger expansion in the Asian markets through organic growth and leverage from oneworld alliance partnerships will be on the cards.

Disclosure: No positions

Source: US Airways-American Will Give United And Delta Tough Competition