Travelers hope merger will bring better service on American Airlines

Posted Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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DFW AIRPORT -- If there was excitement, it was muted. But American Airlines employees and passengers were generally pleased about the proposed merger with US Airways, hoping it will bring long-awaited stability to the bankrupt carrier.

"I don't think there will be major changes, but I have high hopes for American," said Pat Drenowatz, a Dallas-based pharmaceutical sales employee who travels three weeks a month, most of it on American.

But when she flies for pleasure, Drenowatz has been choosing Virgin America because of what she and her husband described as deteriorating service and frequently delays on American. "I want to be loyal to American but they've pissed me off over the years," she went on. Her husband used blunter language. "It sucks," said Bill Drenowatz, a former Tandy Corp. accountant who is now a self-employed home remodeler.

Jeff Mehmood, 48, a Dallas-based executive with a retail automotive chain, said the merger looks like an excellent opportunity for American.

"I'm excited because of the new planes, and the infusion of new talent" Mehmood said before catching an American flight en route to South Asia. "With these two teams collaborating, American will have a better future."

Like other passengers randomly interviewed, he expressed frustration with flight delays and poor staff morale. Moreover, Mehmood said he mainly flies American, not by choice but because it has such a dominant position at DFW Airport. All things being equal, the Dallas MBA said he'd fly United or Delta.

"Rarely have I met an American employee who is upbeat and willing to serve customers," he said. "But with financial stability, I'm expecting to see them energized and dealing better with passengers."

Most American employees were reluctant to comment, having been asked not to speak to the news media.

Two ground maintenance workers expressed concern over the fact that there were no counterpart positions at US Airways, and wondered whether the American model would continue. "I hope our contract will be honored," said Armando Villareal, 55, a 24-year American employee.

Andy Gomez, 50, an American 737 pilot with 14 years at the airline, was excited about the deal.

"I think it's great, great for the pilots, great for the crew," the Colombian-born aviator said. "There are a lot of benefits that come with the synergies that the two airlines bring. And it will be better for customers because of the added flights."

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said she was ecstatic that the new, larger American Airlines will continue to be based in Fort Worth. Its headquarters is on Amon Carter Boulevard headquarters near D/FW Airport. Fort Worth feared it might lose the headquarters, including the "spinoff jobs," Price said.

"They're staying here in Fort Worth," she said. "We're thrilled about that. The commitment (that) they'll stay with us is critically important to Fort Worth," she said.

Asked whether the merger could change anything about American's decision last year to close its maintenance base at Alliance Airport, Price said "we've not heard anything about that."

She added, "There are some additional negotiations going on...but nothing we can talk about at this time."

Jeff Fegan, the airport's CEO, said, "We expect to be working closely with the newly merged airline as it sets a course for the future and combines its respective operations over the coming months."

He noted that American Airlines, its subsidiary, American Eagle and US Airways operate about 86 percent of flights at DFW.

"Moving forward, their collective success is obviously vital to the success of DFW Airport, and the newly merged airline will continue as an important contributor to the Dallas/Fort Worth economy and a major piece of the United States aviation and transportation infrastructure needed to connect our region to the world."

Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718

Twitter: @bshlachter

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