he collapse of the United-US Airways merger is a good thing. This deal was wrong all over.

Some Wall Street analysts have moaned that further consolidation of the U.S. airline industry is necessary and inevitable, and that the collapse of this deal could have a chilling effect on the market and delay some beneficial combinations.

Maybe, but at this stage of the industry's evolution we'd prefer to see cute little mergers that strengthen some of the industry's smaller players rather than big ugly mergers that contribute to gigantism.

An industry dominated by a Big Three needs a Big Four, not a Big Two.

It was obvious from Day One that United and US Airways knew they had a long shot on their hands. The proposal for spinning off US Airways' Washington operations to DC Air, a new entity created for that purpose, was a clumsy solution for an obvious problem, and it was followed, incredibly, by the even more awkward proposal that American peel off some of US Airways' assets and somehow share ownership of the US Airways Shuttle with United.

The worst thing about the collapse of this house of cards is that the employees of US Airways have spent the last year following leaders who tried to sell them, and us, on the notion that this problematic merger was their only option. We think US Airways' management was wrong to insist that there could be no Plan B, that US Airways can't survive on its own. With an attitude like that, how can it?

It's one thing to fight the good fight and to gracefully accept the inevitable when the time comes, as the people of TWA have done, but a strategy of preemptive surrender doesn't do much to inspire the troops.

And it seems to us that this has to be especially true in the field of commercial aviation -- for who among us would place our desire to fly, to rise above the very earth, in the hands of a defeatist?

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