The recent decision by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Pennsylvania attorney general to oppose the proposed merger of US Airways and American Airlines ignores the tremendous benefits that such a combination would bring to the Philadelphia region.
This airline merger will mean enhanced passenger service and vital job creation through key capital improvement projects that will enable Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) to reach its potential as a key player in the 21st-century economic growth of the region.
For more than three decades, US Airways and its predecessor companies have played an integral role in the regional economy. There has been more than $1 billion invested at PHL since 2001, another $1 billion has been committed to the expansion program, and there is more to come.
More than 6,500 US Airways employees call this region home. They contribute to our tax base, send their children to our schools, shop in our stores, volunteer in our communities, visit our museums and theaters, dine in our restaurants, and cheer for our sports teams.
Today, US Airways provides 458 daily nonstop flights to 119 cities. This service is vital for our region's corporate citizens and our hospitality and tourism economy. Perhaps most important, US Airways has worked with the city to help build PHL into what it is today - a critical asset that receives no local tax support for operations, contributes more than $14.4 billion annually to our regional economy, and supports more than 141,000 jobs in the region.
International traffic out of PHL has grown more than 100 percent since 1997. In fact, Qatar Airways, a recipient of numerous travel industry awards, recently announced new service from Philadelphia to Doha based, at least in part, on the proposed merger.
Our region's companies have offices and clients all over the globe. In order to compete in today's business climate, they rely on air service that is convenient and dependable. Competitive cities and regions have great airports that are attractive to passengers, businesses, and airlines alike. Philadelphia must ensure that the more than 30 million passengers who travel through our airport annually have access to competitive airfares.
The US Airways and American route networks are generally complementary and there is minimal overlap. With a combined carrier, PHL expects to see an increase in nonstop flights and better connections for other routes, including flights to cities that are not currently served.
At the same time, airlines see opportunity in this region and are entering our market to the benefit of all air travelers. In the last 16 months, four low-cost carriers - Virgin America, Alaska, Spirit, and Jet Blue - have begun service at PHL on key business and leisure routes to Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and Las Vegas. Competition is alive and well at PHL.
The combination of US Airways and American has the potential to provide new air service opportunities to markets not currently served directly from Philadelphia, especially key international markets enjoyed by our neighbors in New York and Washington. On the day the merger begins, PHL's primary airline will - for the first time - have a fleet that could reach high-demand destinations in Japan, China, India, and South America. This merger also has the potential to solidify PHL's position as one of the new major hubs in American Airline's global network. More air service means more opportunities for more jobs at the airport and, ultimately, for our region.
Public officials throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania agree that to remain competitive, this region requires a vibrant, world-class airport that offers the best in air service and efficiency, and meets the needs of the traveling public. The new American would enhance the regional business climate, foster job creation, create new air service opportunities, and advance the infrastructure improvements needed to reduce delays and provide for future capacity. US Airways, as our primary carrier, traditionally has played a major role in our ability to accomplish those goals.
The new American has the potential to produce a stronger Philadelphia International Airport with a larger presence on the global stage. That is something everyone in our region deserves.