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The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number, making it easy to track travel industry performance for the first time ever. See more on travel company stock performance.

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8 Mergers That Shaped U.S. Aviation

The U.S. airline industry today is dominated by four big airlines that fly 78% of all of the seats in the U.S. market. It was not always this way. At the turn of the century, these same airlines controlled barely a 50% share of all seats in the domestic market. Here’s a timeline of the mergers that have reshaped the airline industry since 2000.

Skift Global Forum Event on the TWA Hotel Tarmac


2001: American and TWA

In January 2021, American announced plans to buy long-struggling Trans World Airlines. At the time, the deal would jump American up two notches to be the second-largest U.S. airline behind only Delta. But American’s grand plans to use TWA to make itself a larger competitor fell to the wayside after the September 11 attacks.


2005: America West and US Airways

The America West-US Airways deal really was the first merger of the modern era. It showed industry executives that, by bringing two smaller airlines together and increasing scale, the resulting carrier could turn greater profits. The combination kicked off the talks that would eventually result in the mega mergers that brought us the American, Delta, Southwest, and United of today.


2008: Delta and Northwest

This really was the first airline mega merger. Yes, America West and US Airways was big — but it was nowhere as big as Delta and Northwest. The deal, which was unveiled in April 2008, brought together the third (Delta) and seventh (Northwest) largest airlines by seats in the U.S. into a new market leader with a 20% share of all domestic and international seats in and out of the country


2009: Frontier and Midwest

The Frontier Airlines and Midwest Airlines merger is one nobody really talks about because it failed miserably. Regional airline Republic Airways, with grand ambitions for its own major carrier, bought Midwest in July 2009 and Frontier out of bankruptcy that October. The merger never succeeded like Republic hoped, and the carrier began looking for a buyer in 2011.

United Airlines

2010: United and Continental

Announced on May 3, 2010, the United-Continental combination was the second mega-merger in the U.S. market. The all-stock deal valued at $3 billion would see Continental’s CEO Jeff Smisek (pictured) lead the combined company headquartered in Chicago under the United brand. Continental was fully integrated into United in 2012.

Southwest Airlines

2011: Southwest and AirTran

Southwest was long among the largest domestic U.S. airlines, but it lacked international routes and a strong presence in the southeast. Enter AirTran with its Atlanta hub and its ability to expand to the Caribbean and Latin America. Southwest agreed to buy the carrier for $1.37 billion in September 2010. The combination would see the three largest U.S. airlines each have an 18% or more share of seats in the market based on 2010 numbers.


2013: US Airways and American

When American filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011, US Airways CEO Doug Parker (pictured) saw an opportunity. A courtship ended in an $11 billion deal that was announced on Valentine’s Day in 2013. The combined airline would be the market leader, vaulting the fourth- and fifth-largest U.S. airlines well ahead of the largest, Delta, with a 23% share of all domestic and international seats.

Alaska Airlines

2016: Alaska and Virgin America

When Alaska announced it would buy Virgin America for $2.6 billion, it proved the foil to JetBlue’s West Coast growth ambitions. Ask Alaska, and the deal was not to block a competitor, but for greater access to the competitive Los Angeles and San Francisco markets. The deal made the carrier a solid fifth in the U.S. market

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