US Airways and American Airlines have merged their frequent flier programmes in the first phase of a wider marketing pact announced earlier this year. From 1 August , each airline's club members also gained access to private airport lounges operated by both carriers.

The two airlines have agreed to a marketing alliance which stops short of a major code-share arrangement because of provisions in their respective pilot contracts. They also hope to co-operate in other areas, such as joint purchasing.

The transaction comes in the wake of a Northwest Airlines and Continental Airlines deal to code-share. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines also have a similar pact. All three alliances have encountered stiff opposition from Government and Congress.

American and US Airways believe that code-sharing would be beneficial, but they will have to win pilot union approvals because certain types of code-sharing are subject to provisions in the labour contracts of both companies. American's pilots are represented by the Allied Pilots Association, while US Airways flightdeck crews belong to the Air Line Pilots Association.

Endorsement of a code-share by the pilots is not assured. Earlier this year, US Airways and American were forced to drop plans for code-share services to Japan after US Airways pilots refused to allow the flights to take place.

Their new contract allows code-shares with foreign airlines, but prohibits similar deals with rival US airlines unless they are endorsed by the union.

Source: Flight International