UAL Chief: Airline Deals Inevitable

Even if the proposed takeover of Deltafails, that wouldn't halt airline industry consolidation, the chief of United Airlines said Tuesday.

United CEO Glenn Tilton was commenting on a report that Doug Parker, head of US Airways(LCC:NYSE), said the current round of possible mergers could cease if his company's $10.1 billion hostile bid for Delta is rejected.

"Since we have been talking about the benefits of consolidation to the industry well before the new US Airways existed, I would think the [need] would be no less so," Tilton said during a conference call with analysts and reporters. "It doesn't change the underlying conditions I've spoken to for several years."

United is a unit of UAL (UAUA:NASDAQ).

Tilton, one of the strongest advocates for airline industry consolidation, said he is optimistic about the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the subject on Wednesday.

"We'll be watching the hearing to get a sense of [their] attitude, just as you will be," he told reporters. "The assembled group will probably give a very balanced report out to the issues. I think they're open-minded."

In a Bloomberg story on Tuesday, Parker said he's waiting to hear whether Delta's bankruptcy creditors will meet a Feb. 1 deadline to urge the carrier to open its books to US Airways and trigger an antitrust review of the proposed merger. Without those steps, US Airways will pull its bid, he said.

"It has implications for the whole industry,'' Parker said. "If they decide not to let us move forward with our proposal, industry consolidation is not going to happen until the next down-cycle.''

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