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A Brief History of Airline Mergers

May 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

This article was written by Phineas Upham

The past 15 years of American commercial aviation has been wrought with mergers. Reasons range from consolidation to fierce competition. Whatever the reason, these mergers have fundamentally altered the landscape of air travel for both businesses and consumers. Here are a few highlights of noteworthy mergers that have taken place.

US Airways and American West

The terrorist attacks on September 11th had put US air travel in a bind. People still needed to get from point A to point B, but there weren’t many vacationers in the air. US Airways had already been experiencing difficulty when the attacks hit, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2002. It took two years for US Airways to find a buyer. They found American West, who pumped cash into the company and kept the branding.

Delta and Northwest

On the heels of a merger between Southwest and ATA, the merger of Delta and Northwest briefly created the world’s largest airline. It took a full two years for integration of both companies to be complete, and by the end there was no more Northwest. Today, you can easily book a Delta flight to just about anywhere in the world.

Continental and United

Mere months after Delta became the world’s largest airline, Continental announced it would merge with United Airlines. The deal took months to close and the airline took the United name, creating the largest airline in passenger traffic by 2011.

Phineas Upham

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phineas on his Twitter page.

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