米航空大手合併 世界の空を競う新時代の到来

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 20, 2013)
American-US Airways merger marks new era of global rivalry
米航空大手合併 世界の空を競う新時代の到来(2月19日付・読売社説)

The U.S. airline industry has reached the end of more than 10 years of mergers and acquisitions among major carriers. This indicates the dawn of a new era in which the three big U.S. carriers will take the lead in the global airline industry, as well as in Asia.

American Airlines and US Airways, the world's fourth and 11th-largest carriers, respectively, have agreed to merge this autumn. Under the deal, the new airline will surpass United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, the current No. 1 and No. 2 carriers, as the largest in the world.

It can be said that the latest development is the result of American and US Airways' shared intention to survive global competition by streamlining operations and expanding their customer base.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, major U.S. carriers fell like dominoes due to economic slowdowns, soaring fuel prices and aggressive sales drives by low-cost carriers.

Later, these collapsed carriers consolidated after restructuring under bankruptcy protection. For instance, Delta merged with Northwest, while United absorbed Continental.


U.S. carriers to take leading role

The latest merger is also a move for airlines to find ways to survive through the same formula for recovery.

American entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection proceedings in autumn 2011 following delays in cost-cutting efforts and other factors. The airline still faces many challenges, as it has been unable to single-handedly put itself back on the corporate reconstruction track.

On the other hand, US Airways, which first entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002 and again in 2004, is smaller than American in terms of passenger traffic, but has recently been performing relatively steadily.

The carrier is apparently aiming to shed its excessive dependence on domestic flight services and hoped to mutually complement each other with the merger with American, which has a solid network of international flights.

The focal point in the months ahead will be how quickly the two airlines can demonstrate the cost-reducing effect of the merger.

The new company plans to capture fast-growing markets, including those in Asia. It is certain that global competition in the airline industry will intensify further, with the three major U.S. carriers taking a pivotal role.

Currently, there are three global airline alliance networks that allow partner carriers to have codeshare flights and share mileage reward systems.


ANA, JAL must act quickly

The American-US Airways merger, in which both carriers belong to different alliances, may trigger a global realignment that goes beyond existing alliance networks.

The two major Japanese airlines--All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, both of which run relatively small-scale operations--must raise their sense of urgency. We hope the two carriers will enhance their competitiveness by making further cost-cutting efforts and improving their services.

Yet the Boeing 787, which both consider their leading, next-generation aircraft, has been forced to suspend operations due to mechanical troubles. This negative effect is a matter of concern.

Hindered by its complicated electronic system and joint development through Japanese, U.S. and European manufacturers, there has been little progress in investigating the cause of recent incidents involving Boeing 787s, leaving no prospect for resuming operations even though a month has already passed since the planes were suspended.

If the suspension is extended, both Japanese airlines must review their business management plans centering on the 787s.

We hope both Japanese and U.S. authorities expedite their cooperative efforts to shed light on the cause of the incidents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 19, 2013)
(2013年2月19日01時22分  読売新聞)

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