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Some Small Town Texas Leaders Want the American/U.S. Airways Merger

Ron Monroe

Some small town Texas mayors and leaders don’t buy fears that American Airlines, merged with U.S. Airways, will lead to higher fares and lost service.

Texas joined five other states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Justice in a lawsuit to stop the merger. State Attorney General Greg Abbott said he feared the combined carrier would reduce or cut service to small airports dominated by American. Cities like Wichita Falls, where Glen Barham is mayor.

“American Eagle has told us on numerous occasions that the service to Wichita Falls is the most profitable service they have to any of their cities outside the metroplex and the FAA region that they serve.”

Mayor Barham is not concerned about losing American service, and doesn’t share Abbott’s worries. Neither does Phil Brown, Aviation Director at McAllen International Airport.

“As matter of fact, we’ve been banking on the merger giving us an opportunity for increased air service.”

Brown explains the vision he also shares with McAllen’s mayor.

“As an example. US Airways has a large presence in Phoenix, Arizona. We think Phoenix could be a good market for us. Then that opens up an opportunity to be able to talk to the merged company and say “What about it?”

KERA talked to officials in Beaumont who dismissed merger concerns as well. Long time industry watcher Tom Parsons, with Arlington-based, agrees that a merger could actually help rural towns. 

“I think US Airways, if you look at the number of small cities they serve and the number of small cities here in Texas American Airlines serves, if they haven’t dropped them yet I’m not sure why you would think they would drop them later.”

As for higher prices, Parsons and the other officials we talked to said they already pay high fares, driven by high fuel costs, lack of competition, and other issues. But that didn’t turn any of them against the now-challenged merger.