Merger talks between American Airlines and US Airways can begin now that US Airways has signed a nondisclosure agreement with American's parent company, AMR Corp.But that doesn't mean a merger between the two carriers is a slam dunk.The nondisclosure agreement allows the two carriers to exchange confidential and financial information and "work in good faith to evaluate a potential combination," the carriers said in a joint statement on Friday.But American also pointed out in a note to employees that "other parties" aside from US Airways have signed nondisclosure agreements with the airline to exchange information. The Fort Worth-based carrier declined to disclose their names.And US Airways CEO Doug Parker told employees Friday that the agreement "does not mean we are merging -- it simply means we have agreed to work together to discuss and analyze a potential merger."The carriers said they do not expect to provide updates on the status of discussions until a deal has been made or talks break down."AMR and US Airways have each agreed while they are evaluating a potential combination that they and their representatives will not engage in discussions with other parties concerning a potential combination of AMR and US Airways," the statement said. "The companies noted that there can be no assurance that a transaction will result from these discussions."The move comes after months of public posturing by US Airways to persuade American to consider a merger. Initially, American's chief executive, Tom Horton, said the company's goal was to emerge from bankruptcy as a stand-alone carrier. But later he conceded that he would be open to a merger after the airline's unions threw their support to US Airways.A combined airline would be roughly the size of the world's largest -- United Continental Holdings Inc. -- and the slightly smaller Delta Air Lines, which merged with Northwest.AirlineFinancials.com founder Bob Herbst said the nondisclosure agreement is probably a 60-day agreement and during this time there will be some negotiations between Parker, Horton and the boards of directors at both carriers.He added that the other parties that have signed agreements with American are likely to be investor groups, such as TPG, hedge funds or other finance firms that are interested in helping American get through the bankruptcy process."American management has been under continuous pressure to do something and look at different directions as opposed to their stand-alone plan," Herbst said. "When you look at the long term, American doesn't have a business model that can be competitive against Delta and United."But this week, the carrier said that a group of hedge funds had expressed an interest in financing AMR's exit from bankruptcy. The Wall Street Journal reported that the group would consider equity financing between $1 billion and $2 billion.The developments indicate that American will consider both options -- a merger and a stand-alone restructuring."We noticed the press release was sparsely worded and lacked the typical happy speak such as 'we are pleased to announce' or 'we look forward to' whatever, which no doubt is because AMR has been dragged kicking and screaming to the table," said Vicki Bryan, a senior analyst at Gimme Credit, a bond research firm.Separately, American reiterated its position that the bankruptcy court should only consider two items at a Tuesday hearing to consider whether the pilots' contract should be rejected.The carrier filed a 21-page response on Friday to the Allied Pilots Association's request that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane expand the hearing to consider more evidence."We are moving forward with the process clearly delineated in Judge Lane's decision, in which he invited the company to revise two specific elements on pilot furlough protection and code-sharing before renewing our 1113 motion," said American spokesman Bruce Hicks.The company said it has withdrawn its proposal to change pilot furlough protections and has proposed less code-sharing with other domestic carriers. Therefore, American asserts the court has no other issues to address as it considers American's revised request to reject its pilots contract.The unsecured creditors committee said it agrees with American's position and continues to support the carrier's effort to have its pilot contract rejected by the bankruptcy court as concessionary work rules are necessary to help the carrier restructure successfully, according to a filing made Friday.The report includes material from The Associated Press.