American Airlines is finally reaching the completion of its long, extreme makeover. There's every reason to believe the end result will be remarkable.The latest step is a momentous achievement on its own. American and its pilots have reached a new comprehensive labor agreement for the first time since 2003. The two sides first swapped proposals for a new contract on Sept. 20, 2006, but had been unable to agree ever since.A lot has happened, much of it unpleasant for American and its employees. The low point came a year ago last month, when its parent, AMR Corp., filed for bankruptcy. In February, the airline unveiled its new business plans, including painful job cuts.That made for a difficult spring and summer, but eventually all of the airline's unions except the pilots reached agreements on new contracts. The final step came Friday, when the Allied Pilots Association, the union that represents 10,000 American pilots, announced rank-and-file approval of a tentative contract deal reached last month.Pilots will get pay increases in each year of the six-year contract, plus a 13.5 percent equity stake in the post-bankruptcy AMR. Those are huge considerations. American's leaders say the company will be able to meet its financial goals, and union leaders say the terms put the carrier's pilots on an "industry standard" footing.Soon it will be time for American to emerge from bankruptcy. The biggest remaining step in that direction is to complete behind-the-scenes discussions on a possible merger with US Airways.American has said its goal is to emerge as a stand-alone carrier. But a merger with US Airways offers the potential of size and combined strengths that would put American in a better position to compete with the industry-leading airlines, United and Delta.Whether a merger can be accomplished on terms suitable to both sides is still a puzzle to be solved by their executives.In a letter to employees Friday, American CEO Tom Horton wrote that this is "a good time to pause and consider how far we've come."He noted that the company had restructured its debt and airplane leases, reconfigured its fleet, moved out of inefficient facilities and negotiated new supplier contracts."We have made great progress improving revenue performance and topped the industry for six consecutive months," Horton wrote. "We returned to profitability in the second and third quarters, quickly closing the gap with our competition, and I am confident this momentum will accelerate in the months ahead."He said American is intent on "modernizing the entire travel experience, with a steady stream of industry leading products and services that offer our customers the ultimate ease, comfort and connectivity."American plans to bring 60 new aircraft into its fleet next year and will make the Boeing 777-300ER its new "flagship." Horton has hinted at a new paint scheme for American's planes and promised in his Friday letter to "renew and refresh our iconic brand."That's a lot of plans and a lot of promises, but what else would be worth the pain and effort the company and its employees have been through, both in the bankruptcy process and for years before?This is a rare opportunity for American to get it all right. It has all the tools, enough highly competent executives and the qualified work force to succeed.With all of these elements, American can be among the airline industry's best once again. The next few months will be exciting ones for Fort Worth's hometown airline.