Very funny Mark. I guess I can't disappoint everyone now.
The UA-US supermerger proposal is a dead letter, especially after the GAO report; Bush won't be any friendlier to the thing than Clinton. The supermerger is corporate welfare for US Airways employees (who want the industry restructured and millions of Americans exposed to fare gouging, so they don't have to lose seniority in an inevitable bankruptcy of high-cost US 10 years or so from now). For United, it's a way to grab market power to crush competition, and a great way for Jim Goodwin to distract Wall Street's attention from his appallingly incompetent management of United.
But it still give me pleasure to count the ways DC Air would not work. See Russ's post (TWAneedsNOhelp) for the details, that way I don't need to repeat them.
United and US are offering Bob Johnson insufficient aircraft to run US's DCA schedule, even with the shuttles and ORD and DEN flights lopped off. Many cities such as Rochester and Buffalo which have all mainline narrobodies to DCA now will have RJs, (which Johnson admits) and I think props on many flights. He'll have insufficient seats which will of course lead to fare hikes. Supply and demand. All of these things will outrage customers and Congresspeople.
So Bob Johnson, who is not stupid, has gone shopping. He's asked AA to buy a 49 percent interest in DC Air to get marketing and capital support. They're interested and pondering the idea. But their money ain't coming without strings attached.
Johnson would inherit his entire fleet from UA and US. And their employees, contracts, and high cost structures. Then he wants money from *other* Big 6 oligopoly carriers to help DC Air make a go of it. What does this mean?
First, Johnson's repeated promises that DC Air will be a low-fare carrier are patently false. His cost structure won't let him have low fares, and Sugar Daddy Don Carty ain't giving money to create a low fare carrier. Big Air would be completely in control of DC Air. It would not be an "independent airline."
Second, those big carriers covet Reagan National slots. American is already leasing slots right and left to add Boston flights--that'll be a shuttle as soon as they can get slots. AA has already ramped up ops big at DCA in the past two years, adding IAH and other destinations.
Which means they will gladly predatory-price DC Air out of business, using the routes where they compete. And get all those slots that are serving 43 icky medium-margin, medium and small-size markets (Rochester, Greensboro, Buffalo, Hagerstown, Albany etc). They will cut these cities and add flights on fat high-margin BOS, NYC, and other dense business markets. IF AA has control thru purse strings predatory pricing might not be necessary to achieve this goal. Like Don Corelone, Big Air likes to do things in the quietest manner possible.
The Big 6 sharks do not want a little fish in charge of a big percentage of juicy slots at a major airport. US Airways has kept a commitment to regional point-to-point service in the Northeast, and their massive regional network at DCA is probably their crown jewel. That commitment dies with the absorption of US into UA.
Better to let market forces work the thing out piecemeal--with public scrutiny--over ten years, than restructure the industry to create three giant major airlines (the unquestionable result of a UA-US merger) who could make sure DCA slots are taken away from medium and small markets.
Bob Johnson would swim in very dangerous waters. DC Air is being set up to fail, and Johnson's own pursuit of Big Air money to prop it up isn't going to help.