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Passengers not likely to see immediate changes

– American Airlines and US Airways have cleared the last major hurdle to merging, but it will be several months – if not years – before passengers see any significant effect.

Passengers with existing tickets on American or US Airways – and members of both frequent flier programs – shouldn’t fret. No changes will come immediately.

When the deal does close, here’s what passengers can expect:

Airfare

During the past five years, the airline industry has seen the combinations of Delta with Northwest, United with Continental and Southwest Airlines Co. with AirTran. The price of a domestic round-trip flight has climbed more than 15 percent since 2009, when adjusted for inflation.

The merger will give a combined American and US Airways Group Inc. the ability to increase fares. United, Delta and Southwest would be likely to follow.

Frequent-flier miles

Your miles will be safe. After the merger closes, the two airlines will likely combine the miles into one program and elite status from one airline will likely be honored on the other.

That puts the occasional traveler closer to rewards.

Destinations

A key reason for merging is to link both airlines’ networks, creating a system on par with Delta Air Lines and United, part of United Continental Holdings Inc.

There is little overlap between the two airlines’ existing routes. The combined carrier will offer more than 6,700 daily flights to 336 destinations in 56 countries, making it more attractive to companies seeking to fly employees around the globe with few connections.

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