It is always easy to find the faults of any deal.
Frankly, I have no confidence in their ability to see at this moment that the codeshare deal with US Airways will undercut the viability of their Dulles hub for anything but international service and transcons.
Dulles has already turned into pretty much that. You're right, those who fly ACA on the non-international/transcon connection banks are United flyers who would otherwise fly US Airways. Now that US Airways is in play, those people would probably choose US Airways. As it stands right now, Dulles is little more than transcontinental, hub, gateway, and European flights.
But, as you said, United can't coordinate pricing between its U codeshared flights and its own. Therefore, a United/ACA routing is still likely to have the upper hand in pricing over a United/UA* US Airways routing. The flyer will probably stay with UA/BR, unless his corporate budget allwaos him to go with the more expensive combination (US), which is very rare nowadays. Besides, UA and US state that they fully intend to compete fiercely on existing markets they serve.
Keep in mind it could also be the case that US flyers would suddenly find it more convenient or desireable to connect on United to transcontinental or European markets, instead of going through the US Airways hubs. (It is interesting to note that United's NE-South American services are being relocated to IAD as a re-emphasizing of the IAD gateway). Also, bear in mind that all this ACA capacity on non-UA banked connections in IAD is a drop in the bucket compared to US Airways' eastern route structure.
And while we are in hypothetical conjecture, if UA found that more UA loyal flyers preferred the US flights to the point where certain BR flights became unprofitable for United, United would love to shift more RJs to ORD, which is going slot-free, about to undergo a significant expansion, and needs a competitive edge over RJ services provided by American (the horrible UAX ORD facilities notwithstanding).
While the key benefit of the merger is not present in this codeshare, the second largest benefit is here, and is here big-time. It's not about simply increasing yields, or increasing revenue... it's about building an attractive network.
It is about increasing yields and revenue while at the same time increasing loyalty
Before, US flyers had no incentive to choose UA over NW when wanting to fly over the Pacific. Same with UA over AA, DL, or CO over to Latin America and across the Atlantic. They will in the future, now that UA and US will start coordinating flight schedules, combining mileage programs and reservations systems.
From a management standpoint AA has the advantage in managing pricing inventory and costs in the shuttle market. Wow. But from a customer's standpoint, will AA present an AAdvantage
for it? Hardly, unless they're an AA flyer.
UA and US will cement their loyal customer bases on the east coast (United's primarily in the northern va. corridor) and bolster their reasons to stay loyal. Why fly Eagle Shuttle when you can get real jets and dedicated terminals on US, with access to not only the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America, but a comprehensive Pacific Rim network as well? Why fly the DL Shuttle when you can't fly to the Pacific or as easily to points west of the Mississippi?
To be sure, US Shuttle flyers will probably jump to AA if they or their business desires to take them to many points in Latin America or the Caribbean... but there is no reason for them to stray further from US when going to Canada, Europe, the Western USA, or the Pacific now that they can make easy connections to United -or fly United directly- that enhance their mileage status. Which is precisely why DL is worried... not so much by the pricing capabilities of a combined US/UA entity in the South/Eastern Seaboard --because the "United States Alliance" will have no such capability as yet planned-- but by the allure of that entity to Delta's very own frequent flyers.
Like the deal was announced, this is very much a marketing tactic. Damn the torpedoes, both companies will have to be flexible if their competing markets start to cannibalize each other. Both companies are in dire straits anyhow.
As for US taking a year to join the *alliance, this is the right step. US wants to work out the kinks in its codesharing with United before it goes into anything further, which is te right way to play it.
Also, I don't think any of the Express carriers on either side are involved, as it would be too hard to work out while mainline coordinates schedules, facilities, and systems (an immense task in itsealf). Plus, the Express carriers exist primarily to feed the hubs, something which US mainline would not seek to do for UA mainline, and vice versa. Unlike what people think, this doesn't necessarily mean US becoming a UA feeder. Like I said, it is more like UA having a *alliance partner in the US, as feed from a mainline carrier is very much different from feed of a regional.
MY PREDICTIONS OF THE AFTERMATH:
* UA will have US staff groundhandle its flights in certain eastern/southern airports, and US will have UA crew do the same in certain western stations (job protections will be in place, of course)... PIT comes into mind for UA
* UA will increase service to Hawaii, after the many years of lusting access by US flyers... east coast cargo should offset the losses incurred by mileage redeemers
* UA will start Boston to Tokyo
* UA and US will have a tough time consolidation facilities in airports such as, but not limited to: SFO, BOS; but a relatively easy time relocating in: PHL, DEN, LGA, DCA, CLT, MIA, LAX, ORD
* Watch ORD's concourse F undergo renovations (read: jetbridges) as it becomes completely UAX when US moves its gates over to UA's B or C
* Looking for some possible actions
between ACA and PSA (as planned during merger time), and other wholly-owneds... this will settle UAX/UEX coordination/competition issues quicker
* Look for increased focus on MidAtlantic Airways by US as a vehicle for large 70+ seater RJs (hopefully EMB-170/190s) to enter the US market