On Thursday, US Airways CEO Doug Parker paid his first visit to Charlotte since the company announced plans to merge with American Airlines.
First, Parker – who will be the CEO of the New American Airlines – met with employees. US Airways has more than 7,000 here in Charlotte. Was he trying to reassure them?
"Oh goodness no," says Parker. "They're so excited. I just wanted to come celebrate with them."
They're celebrating, in part, because American and US Airways have very complementary flight routes and operations, says Parker. There's very little overlap or redundancy, so the mass layoffs typical in mergers aren't likely in this case.
"We don't anticipate any (layoffs)," says Parker. "I mean, I don't want to tell you there's zero and find out in the future there's some one-off types of things, but in large part, we need all the airplanes, all the people that we have at both companies."
And Charlotte's status as the largest of US Airways' hubs will only increase post-merger: "This connecting hub is going to be more and more important to the new American Airlines and therefore it's going to give the people of Charlotte more and more places to fly to."
Charlotte travelers could see higher fares, though, if past mergers are an indication.
Parker won't concede that, but Charlotte ticket prices are higher than the national average as a consequence of US Airways' dominance in Charlotte. Local travelers also get access to hundreds of direct flights Charlotte would not have otherwise. That is an advantage not lost on Charlotte's business community, says Parker. After meeting with employees, he was headed to a select gathering of business leaders at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
"I always love coming and talking to the Chamber here because they get it," says Parker. "It may seem natural to all of you, but we fly to a number of cities and every city doesn't get it as much as Charlotte does - the connection between an efficient airport and how that drives business. But this community's always gotten it."
So long as that remains true, Parker says it doesn't matter to US Airways if the airport continues to be overseen by the city or is transferred to a regional authority. In that fight, Parker refuses to take a side.