October 25, 2014

SC airports eyeing American-US Airways merger

The air travel industry is closely watching the merger of US Airways and American Airlines, which will create the world’s largest airline.

The merger will officially take place on December 9, but both companies gathered in Dallas Monday to sign the paperwork. The move came less than a week after a federal bankruptcy judge gave the green light for American’s parent corporation AMR to pursue the deal.

But how will the merger affect the largest South Carolina airports?

“A merger is always going to have some challenges, so we may see some,” Columbia Metropolitan Airport spokeswoman Kaela Harmon said. “But ultimately, when all is said and done, we think this is going to be a huge benefit to our airport and to the consumers who fly in and out.”

Charleston County Aviation Director Paul Campbell says he sees benefits from the merger. “What we want to see is more service to Charleston, not less service. I think this opens an opportunity for us to get there.”

But airport officials won’t know for sure until the airline begins announcing changes to its overall network once the merger is complete. It’s unclear if the larger airline will shed flights or add new cities for South Carolina’s airports.

The Sun News quoted Myrtle Beach International Airport spokesman Kirk Lovell as saying officials there would be waiting to see how carrier would adjust their schedules.

A Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport spokeswoman could not be reached on Monday.

It also remains to be seen how a merger would impact Hilton Head Island Airport, as U.S. Airways is currently the only commercial carrier flying onto the island. While the merger has the potential to provide more destinations under a larger airline, American could also decide to eliminate the lightly-traveled route.

Sheree Bernardi of Charleston affiliate WTMA contributed to this report