Week ahead: Merger finalized

After a nearly year-long quest, US Airways and American Airlines will finalize their merger this week.

The companies, which first announced their plans to combine in February, are expected to make it official on Dec. 9.

The US Airways-American merger is the culmination of a fight that saw the airlines nearly end up in court with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The airlines’ combination is also the latest — and possibly last — example of a trend toward consolidation that has drastically restructured the U.S. airline industry in recent years.

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US Airways and American are joining Delta and Northwest airlines, United and Continental and Southwest and AirTran Airways as airlines that have merged since 2008.

Officials from US Airways and American told federal regulators that they would learn from the mistakes of the previous airline mergers and therefore have a smooth combination of resources.

The merger became controversial quickly, however, because regulators and lawmakers were not as easily convinced.

The Justice Department sued to block the merger, arguing that the airlines’ combination would violate federal antitrust laws and result in higher ticket prices for consumers. The airlines countered that they needed to be able to merge to keep up with the other airlines that have been allowed to combine forces.

Justice only relented when the airlines agreed to give up some flights at Washington, D.C., and New York airports and promised to keep its hubs open for at least three years.

Lawmakers from cities that lost airport hubs in previous mergers like Memphis, Tenn., and Pittsburgh were particularly insistent about forcing US Airways and American to keep operations at key airports throughout their networks.

Elsewhere at the Capitol, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday to examine the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investments grants program.

The panel will also meet on Wednesday to examine the Coast Guard’s “mission execution.”

Additionally, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday to look at the impact of vacancies at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Transportation Security Administration.