The truth can hurt, but eventually it can't be denied.American Airlines isn't the carrier that it once was. For those of us in Dallas-Fort Worth, it's easy to assume that American Airlines remains the dominant force in the industry that we were a decade or two ago. After all, you still see a great many silver tails on the tarmac at DFW Airport.The truth is, American Airlines has staged a steady retreat from many markets where we used to be the "big dog." The U.S. East Coast -- the world's largest and most lucrative airline market -- represents a prime example. American Airlines has slid to fourth place in that crucial region and is losing out in the competition for critically important corporate accounts. That's a serious problem. Business travelers make up a disproportionately large percentage of airline revenues due to their propensity for frequent travel, first- and business-class seats and last-minute reservations.The mergers of United-Continental and Delta-Northwest have left American Airlines behind in terms of scale and breadth of network, two vitally important ingredients to airline industry success. We simply can't match our newly bulked-up network carrier competitors in offering customers a wide array of choices in terms of where and when to travel.What's the solution?The almost-universal consensus is that AMR management's "stand-alone" plan will not work, and that American Airlines and US Airways should merge now. By doing so, American Airlines would become an airline comparable in size to United and Delta. We would be the largest carrier on the East Coast and the largest carrier in the central region. This dramatically enhanced domestic network would provide the foundation for further expansion into profitable overseas markets.The alternative plan of reorganization that US Airways management has proposed would preserve and enhance the American Airlines brand, retain our Fort Worth headquarters and save thousands of jobs that would be eliminated under AMR management's stand-alone plan. Our airline's creditors would receive a higher return on their claims in the ongoing Chapter 11 restructuring. The 55,000 front-line employees of American Airlines have endorsed this plan, which also has the enthusiastic support of virtually every analyst who covers our industry.So what's not to like?About the only opposition to what US Airways management has proposed comes from AMR management. They have continued to cling to their stand-alone restructuring plan and are characterizing any discussion of a near-term merger with US Airways as an unwelcome distraction. The motivation behind their steadfast opposition: The executives overseeing American Airlines when the carrier emerges from bankruptcy will become wealthy.In other recent airline bankruptcies, the top managers have ended up with significant chunks of equity in the newly restructured company.That self-interest unfortunately conflicts with what's best for a great many people whose livelihoods depend upon American Airlines. Personally, I believe the interests of thousands of hardworking, middle-class residents of the DFW Metroplex and other communities across the country should take precedence. American Airlines and US Airways should merge now, not later, when it would be more advantageous for AMR management.And that's the truth.Captain Dave Bates has been a pilot for American Airlines for 27 years and began serving a three-year term as Allied Pilots Association president on July 1, 2010.