D/FW AIRPORT - For the first time since entering bankruptcy last fall, American Airlines announced that it will consider the benefits of a merger.
American has agreed to consider potential merger scenarios with its unsecured creditors committee, which includes Boeing, three labor unions, and five other parties in the company's bankruptcy.
"The actions contemplated by the agreement include developing potential consolidation scenarios, but the agreement is not an indication that the company intends to pursue a transaction of any kind," American said in a statement.
The development is significant since Horton and American have ignored recent advances from US Airways, and always insisted they intended to go it alone and emerge from bankruptcy as a single carrier.
The agreement is the result of a number of secret meetings between American and its unsecured creditors over the last three weeks.
News of it finally surfaced late Friday afternoon as American Airlines executives were at D/FW Airport showing off Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner to the media.
"American plans to take up to 100 of these remarkable airplanes," Tom Horton, American Airlines CEO, told a couple hundred employees in Hangar 5. "Take a good look. This is the future of our airline."
But for all the talk about the future, Horton never acknowledged the airline's softening stance on merger talk.
Horton walked away from reporters questions at the event.
The Allied Pilots Association, which represents American's pilots, said it was encouraged by the airline agreeing to consider the benefits of consolidation.
"This is the plan we've been pursuing for sometime now," said Scott Shankland, Allied Plots Association. "Our first option would be to have American Airlines management participate in that."
Earlier Friday, about 300 union members marched to American's Fort Worth headquarters to deliver thousands of signatures on petitions which said they have "no confidence" in the airline's own restructuring plan.
American insists it is only considering what's best for the company, and restated that this is no indication a merger is in the works.
But this development is the closest the company has ever come, at least publicly, to considering consolidation.