You’ve no doubt read about the (possible) merger talks between United and Delta. Yes, there are synergies in their route structures — it would create an airline giant with a massive global footprint. But let’s get real. Airline mergers have not failed because of route overlap. They fail because of workforces (see: US Airways/America West); because of technology (see: US Airways/America West); because of fleet integration issues (they would have a laundry list of aircraft); and because the supposed synergies of a largescale integration never arrive.
Is this merger impossible? No. Is this merger unlikely? Yes. Are the operational issues of merging these two groups together virtually insurmountable? Absolutely. US Airways and America West announced their merger 2 1/2 years ago, and it’s still an operational mess (see: website). And those were small(ish) airlines compared to these two. Just because a merged United would fly to Cape Town, Kiev, and Seoul does not make this a great idea.