US Air - American merger: What does it mean for Sky Harbor? - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

US Airways - American merger: What does it mean for Sky Harbor Airport?

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PHOENIX -

It looks like the merger between Tempe-based US Airways and American Airlines has a green light now that the government has settled its lawsuit to block the deal.

The brand new American Airlines has promised to stay in its existing hubs for at least three years, but after that, could the huge airline cut way back at Sky Harbor Airport?

Well let's take a look at US Airways and American Airlines right now at Sky Harbor:   US Airways is in Terminal 4 on the north side with 54 gates. American is in Terminal 3 with 3 gates.

As part of the merger, American will move in with US Airways in Terminal 4.  The new merged airline has promised to stay this big for three years. If it ever downsizes after that, it could be a bad thing.

Sky Harbor is a huge economic engine for the valley of the sun. 

Direct impact: $9.5 billion a year and over 40,000 jobs.  A lot of that is the new combined US Airways and American Airlines.

It is a frightening prospect -- the idea that Sky Harbor may someday not be the hub that it is today, but the people who run this airport say they are not worried.

"People want to come here, visit.. we run cost-effective and efficient airport.. a great place for an airline to do business," said acting aviation director Tamie Fisher.  "So I am very confident they will find good reasons to stay in Phoenix.  I think the passenger traffic will grow."

One advantage for Sky Harbor: It isn't just a place people pass through on the way to somewhere else.

"More than half of our passenger activity is generated by local market, unrelated to hub activity and that is fairly unique for an airport," said Fisher.

At the American Airlines ticket counter in Terminal 3, there was cautious optimism.

"Well, I am hoping it is going to be beneficial when I quit hearing about American in bankruptcy and all of that and eventually we will get some lower prices due to the merger," said Dee McGaughey, a passenger.

The aviation director is confident a strong, new American Airlines will be a centerpiece of Sky Harbor for a long time to come.

If the new American Airlines ever cuts back at Sky Harbor, the airport is confident other airlines would take over its gates.  The airport says it has been careful to operate conservatively and has not overbuilt as it has expanded over the years.

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