6 Key Items to Watch in the US Airways/AMR Merger

Tickers in this article: AAMRQ.PK DAL HA LCC UAL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- The merger between US Airways (LCC) and bankrupt American (AAMRQ.PK) , put together with a non-disclosure agreement in place, has nevertheless been one of the most closely reported airline mergers in history.

In fact, so much is known about this merger that the announcement, which we and scads of other reporters expect on Thursday, will be as anti-climactic as Hawaiian's (HA) monthly announcement that it had the best on-time performance record of any airline.

The suspense quotient fell early, when two of the top three most sensitive merger issues, involving the new company's name and headquarters, were settled because US Airways CEO Doug Parker declared that he would keep American's name and Dallas headquarters. That left the third major sensitivity: Who runs the new company? AMR CEO Tom Horton has fought to stay in the loop, the sources all say.

But it has always been hard to imagine that Horton would oversee or become a critical part of the America West team that successfully put together the 2005 merger with US Airways and then spent the next seven years creating a strong airline from two weak ones while simultaneously pursuing mergers with Delta (DAL) and United (UAL) before finally finding the right formula by which to take over a Big Three airline.

The most amazing story here replicates the story of Frank Lorenzo in the 1980s, when a small group running a tiny, marginal western airline called Texas International crafted a path of mergers and takeovers that, within a decade, had them running the biggest airline company in the world.

This is not to say that Parker resembles Lorenzo: I have covered them both, and he does not. But I have to wonder what Lorenzo is thinking today, as he sees his growth pattern replicated, his use of bankruptcy court now accepted airline industry practice and the Newark hub he assembled now the most profitable hub in the U.S. airline industry.

Perhaps he is thinking: Getting to the top is one thing and staying there is another thing altogether. Actually, after writing this I spoke with Lorenzo, so you can see exactly what he thinks in our companion story.

That said, here are six things to watch for as the American West team works to put together the newly created world's largest airline.

Labor Integration

As Lorenzo perhaps came to realize, this is a key to any airline merger. After the 2005 merger, Parker was greeted as a hero by many US Airways employees, but over time the perception diminished as contract talks lagged. Today, of three major US Airways unions, only the International Association of Machinists has signed a post-merger contract. It is, in fact, negotiating a second contract.