Regionals Update: DCAir chief applauds last-ditch effort to save merger

 - May 21, 2008, 7:56 AM

Despite United Airlines’ apparent decision to abandon its attempt to buy US Airways for $4.3 billion, the airlines agreed to submit to the Justice Department a merger proposal for full review in compliance with a 21-day review period requirement, prompting applause from DC Air CEO Robert Johnson, who pledged to locate his airline’s headquarters in Washington if the merger survives Justice Department scrutiny.

Under pressure to proceed with the merger attempt from US Airways, DC Air and airline shareholders, United agreed to submit a final proposal after U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft complained that United Airlines used the department as a “scapegoat” for the demise of its bid. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) told US Airways union officials that Ashcroft had contradicted reports that the deal fell apart over antitrust concerns. The merger agreement between US Airways and United contains a clause requiring the two sides to make their “reasonable best effort” to complete the deal.

The merger, if approved, would create DC Air with assets now controlled by the newly established Potomac Air. DC Air would use both de Havilland Dash 8 turboprops from the US Airways Express system and Canadair Regional Jets from Mesa Air Group. Johnson, a US Airways board member and chairman of Black Entertainment Television, urged the Justice Department to approve the merger. He cited the best interests of the traveling public, the potential for 1,200 new jobs in the District of Columbia and its resulting establishment of the first African-American owned airline “of this size and scope.”