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Episode 1: The Merger That Made the World's Biggest Airline

The 2013 merger between American Airlines and US Airways created the world’s largest airline. But it also marked the ascent of one of the American labor movement’s most visible faces.

Episode 1 of The Closer – The Merger That Made The World's Biggest Airline is out now!

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Our first episode dives into the fascinating story of the merger between US Airways and American Airlines. You probably know our guest, Sara Nelson, from her near omnipresence on cable news during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. We talk to her about that cataclysm and get the in-depth story of her experience as the lead negotiator for flight attendants at US Airways in the US Airway-American Airlines merger.

There’s a ton of material we couldn’t fit into a single episode – more coming in a bonus episode for Brazen+ subscribers soon ;) – and there’s also a huge amount of great reporting that’s been done on the airline industry over the years.

So if you want to sit back, open a few browser tabs and go even deeper, here’s our guide:

American Airlines, US Airways and the Creation of the World's Largest Airline. Ted Reed and Dan Reed wrote the book on this deal

The New Yorker’s profile of Nelson from May 2022 and The Financial Times’ profile of Nelson from September 2020 mainly tackle her massive role in the federal government’s Covid-19 relief package.

Politico’s December 2019 profile of Nelson and The New York Times February 2019 profile of Nelson focus on her tangles with the Trump administration and the 2018-2019 government shutdown specifically.

The canonical story of how airlines wooed regulators and politicians to support merger after merger, by ProPublica’s Justin Elliott

Twelve Years of Turbulence, a book by Gary Kenendy with Terry Maxon, charts American Airlines’ path from 9/11 on

– A great story from the Washington Post digging in to just how tough a job it is to be a flight attendant

– Extremely important context from CNBC on how 9/11 changed the airline industry. Talking with Nelson really drove home how important 9/11 is to understanding the present state of the airline industry.

– Corporate America loves stocks buybacks, but the US airline industry really loves stock buybacks: U.S. Airlines Spent 96% of Free Cash Flow on Buybacks (Bloomberg)

– The Financial Times looks at the recent Southwest fiasco and public opinion data to understand how the US fell out of love with flying.

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