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Merger not expected to affect flights at Tri-State

Feb. 15, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

CHICAGO -- The merger of American Airlines and US Airways is not expected to affect service at Tri-State Airport right away, but industry experts say the deal could affect the number and location of the hubs the combined airline would use.

U.S. Airways now has 26 flights per week from Huntington Tri-State Airport to Charlotte, N.C. There are four daily flights on weekdays and three daily flights on weekends. Jerry Brienza, executive director of the airport, said he doesn't expect the merger to have any impact on Tri-State Airport in the immediate future.

"It's my understanding that the destinations and everything will remain the same for now, at least for the next couple years until they get everything sorted out," Brienza said.

U.S. Airways is one of two airlines flying out of Tri-State Airport right now. Allegiant Airlines has flights to Florida destinations and, seasonally, to Myrtle Beach, S.C. Delta ceased its flights from Huntington to Detroit last year.

The two airlines announced an $11 billion merger Thursday that will turn American into the world's biggest airline, with some 6,700 daily flights and annual revenue of roughly $40 billion. The latest deal will mean that the four biggest U.S. airlines are all the product of mergers that began in 2008.

Each airline currently operates four hubs, and aviation experts were quick to say that eight is more than enough.

"Nobody has that many hubs," said Robert Poole, an aviation expert and director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation. "Eight hubs for the merged American would just not be sustainable."

In the shakeout of American's merger with US Airways, experts believe American's hubs in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, New York, Los Angeles and Miami are likely to emerge as winners, if only because those markets can support a large amount of traffic on their own. That leaves US Airways' facilities in Philadelphia, Phoenix and, most especially, Charlotte, N.C., most at risk.

That would be a blow for Charlotte, with has prospered from hub status, with 8,000 new companies investing more than $5 billion in the area to create more than 78,000 jobs since the current terminal opened in 1982.

The new airline will be based in Texas, near American's hub at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. That's already a loss for Phoenix, as US Airways was headquartered in suburban Tempe, Ariz.