Derek DeCross & Andrew Nocella

By Kate Rice
Derek DeCross, vice president of global sales for American Airlines, and Andrew Nocella, senior vice president of planning and marketing for US Airways, talked about the merger of the two airlines with Senior Editor Kate Rice.

Andrew NocellaQ: How long will it take before you can officially merge the two companies?

Nocella:
This sort of holding company is fairly typical, and we will work on a joint certificate, which in technical language is to become a single airline from the FAA's point of view. That is about a 12- to 18-month time frame. We will work to align policy in the cockpit, in the cabin and on the ground.

Q: How long will it take US Airways to disengage from the Star Alliance?

Nocella:
We haven't reached a final timeline on that. There is a lot of infrastructure work that goes on to make that transfer.

Q: When will there be a common reservation system, and what will that be?

Nocella:
We haven't talked about it. The transfer to a single res system is one of the biggest hurdles of any merger, so it needs to be carefully prepared, every detail matters. Our experience is that it's usually 12 to 18 months after the deal closes.

We will take a look at the merits of each system. The res system, from a technical point of view, is the heart of the airline IT system. It is a big choice, and we will study it very carefully before we make a final decision.

Q: When will you integrate your marketing programs with respect to compensation such as overrides and preferred relationships with consortia and travel management companies? Do you see any overlap in your compensation plans and preferred relationships?

Derek DeCrossDeCross:
There's not going to be any immediate impact until the deal closes. We will look at the data and form programs together. We see that as a very exciting thing for both the agency and corporate community.

We are committed to providing what our customers most value. And clearly, a good chunk of our high-value customers base comes from your readers, so we look forward to continuing those good relationships that we have today.

Q: Can you talk a little bit more about your preferred customers and compensation policies?

DeCross:
We can't really get into that information, because we are still competitors. We will do as much upfront integration as we can while still staying within the boundaries of the law from an antitrust perspective.

Q: This question is primarily aimed at Nocella, since US Airways is the airline that went through a merger most recently. What did mistakes did you make then, and what did you learn?

Nocella:
We spent a lot of time preparing for that integration, and in many respects it went well, in some respects it didn't succeed as much as we'd hoped. We went and looked at every system in the transition to see what we did right and what we did wrong.

We are anxious to take our experience on that front to make sure that this integration does go seamlessly. From a travel agency point of view, I don't think we had any significant hiccups.

Q: Derek, do you have anything to add?

DeCross:
If you look at mergers historically, we are especially far along on the labor side. The fact that we have [memorandums of understanding] with our labor unions makes it that much easier.

Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly. 
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