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Major Airlines Vie to Buy American

US Airways excutives are approaching American Airlines creditors with acquisition offers, according to various trade reports. This move is an end run around American’s current managers, who say they don’t want to talk merger or acquisition until they complete the bankruptcy process.

But US Airways is in a position to press for a quick deal, and creditors may be receptive.

Meanwhile, trade sources also say that IAG, the holding company for British Airways, would like to acquire American to prevent it from falling into unfavorable hands. American and British Airways have an important partnership, allowing the carriers to dominate routes between London and the U.S.; British Airways doesn’t want to jeopardize that.

Any deal with British Airways would be only a “sort of” acquisition, because U.S. law limits foreign control of any domestic airline to 25 percent (although ownership can go higher). Still, 25 percent is often enough to run the show, as Sir Richard has shown with Virgin America.

At this point, any outlook remains more likely “later” than “sooner.” And, as just about every industry expert has noted, American Airlines will survive any merger or acquisition as a brand, regardless of who owns it, along with its frequent-flyer miles and such. At this point, any negotiations are more important to Wall Street than Main Street.

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