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In an $11 billion deal that would create the world’s largest airline, American Airlines and US Airways have agreed to merge. The new airline will take the American Airlines name to help keep the company afloat after it filed for bankruptcy more than a year ago. The mega-merger deal is scheduled to close in the third quarter of 2013 and make its debut at an airport near you — well, sometime soon.

So what does this pending merger mean for travelers? For one, less competition in the airline industry could mean price hikes for customers. The new American Airlines — with 900 planes, 95,000 employees and 3,200 daily flights — will have the scale, breadth and capabilities to compete more effectively, according to US Airways CEO Doug Parker. The new American, along with United, Delta and Southwest, would control over 70% of the US market. So frequent fliers are warned to expect a rise in ticket prices.

Travelers flying American or US Airways won’t notice immediate changes. Industry officials say that it’s likely the airlines will operate separately for the first year and that existing tickets will be honored. However, it’ll be months before the frequent-flyer programs are combined and years before the 2 airlines are fully integrated.

For corporate business travelers, there may be a few perks. US Airways and American officials expect the combined network of flights and routes to lure corporate travelers away from competitors.

The new airline will keep all hubs for both airlines, but no word yet on a location for the operations center, reservations, flight training, and maintenance and crew bases.

Alec Baldwin Gets Booted Off American Airlines Flight

Alec Baldwin is back in the news again, and this time it has nothing to do with his tense relationship with his ex-wife Kim Bassinger or because he decided to berate his daughter again in a candid cell phone conversation. This time the 30 Rock celeb was booted off an American Airlines flight after he refused to turn off his phone. Apparently he was in the middle of playing the addictive game, “Words with Friends.”

OK, we’ll discuss the 2 sides to this story later, but for now, let’s get to a more important matter. Do we really need to turn off our iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices before the plane takes off or lands? I mean are we really harming anyone by wrapping up those last-minute phone calls or listening to the last verse of Adele’s “Someone Like You?”

Well, the FAA rules are clear. Everything must be turned off before the plane pushes back from the gate or prepares to land. Experts say high radio frequency signals are transmitted from video screens on portable devices. “There is a potential for these signals to cause interference to the (airplane) radio,” Boeing Technical Engineer Bruce Donham says. There’s no hard proof that radio frequency signals have ever causing in-flight problems or a crash, according to NBC News. READ MORE

American Airlines Plane Takes Off

The holiday season is usually a time to spend, spend, spend, but American Airlines’ parent company, AMR Corporation, has filed for bankruptcy to reduce labor costs and shed billions of dollars in debt.  According to the New York Times, AMR is the last of the major legacy US airline companies to file Chapter 11.

For the past 3 years in a row AMR has posted losses, including a $471 million loss last year. Major airline companies cut their costs as a way to compete with low-cost carriers like Southwest Airlines.

So what does American Airlines’ bankruptcy mean for travelers? Well, company officials say it’s business as usual, and the airline will operate normally throughout the bankruptcy process. And you can rest easy if you’re enrolled in one of American’s frequent flyer programs. Plans to restructure the company are not expected to affect the number of travel miles you’ve clocked.

I have to admit I was a little worried at first, especially after I doing a little fare surfing last night for a cheap airplane ticket to Miami. Today, I received an email telling me not to be alarmed about my membership to the AAdvantage frequent flyer program.  Part of the email states: READ MORE

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United, Continental, Delta and American Airlines have increased the number of bags U.S. soldiers can check in for free. Delta, United and Continental will allow soldiers to check in 4 bags, instead of 3, without being charged. Soldiers traveling on American Airlines are now allowed to check in 5 bags free.

In case you haven’t heard about it, soldiers on a Delta flight posted a YouTube videos Tuesday, criticizing the airline for charging $200 for each soldier who checked a 4th bag. One Army staff sergeant in the video said he was charged for a bag containing his M4 carbine rifle and other weaponry. The soldiers were heading to Atlanta from Baltimore. They had arrived in the US the previous day from Afghanistan.

Take a look at the video that sparked public outrage against the airlines. Tell us what you think, and check out Travel Channel’s tips to help you travel with ease.

High Oil Prices Spark Airplane Fees

Rising fuel costs has prompted airline carriers to look for ways to increase revenue. One idea is to charge travelers for items that were once free, including on-board sales of food, drinks, pillows, blankets and entertainment. Industry officials say airlines prefer complex fees to additional fare hikes because people will quit buying tickets if airlines raise prices too high.

American Airlines, United-Continental and Delta are among the carriers considering various new fees. The airlines have proposed charging customers for seat assignments, where a family of 4 will start paying anywhere from $10 to $16 to choose their seats.

Elite or business and first-class passengers would be exempt from the airlines’ proposed seat assignment fee. Travel experts believe airlines will waive the fee for travelers who book a flight and choose their seat within the last 24 hours. But fliers may pay a fee if they want to choose and confirm their seat well in advance.

Other proposed fees include charging for customized travel, including fancy food and champagne in economy class, security-line services and travel-concierge services.

Delta and American Airlines Increase Airfare

Delta and American Airlines have increased their fares, targeting First Class and Business Class passengers who make last-minute purchases.

Here’s a quick breakdown. If you’re flying less than 500 miles each way, then you’ll receive a $20 hike in fare price. For 501 to 1,500 miles, expect a fare increase of $40. Last-minute travelers will pay $60 more if their flight is 1,500 miles or more each way.

An increase in oil prices has forced Delta to increase their fare prices. The Associated Press asked American why it was raising prices. They simply replied, “We’re responding to the Delta initiative.”

Check out our review of the Kayak app and how you can travel in business class for less.  Our tips may help you minimize your airfare costs.

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