On the busiest travel day of the year, a passenger checks the departures board in a terminal at Denver International Airport, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. More than 43 million people are to travel over the long holiday weekend, according to AAA.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

As thousands of students prepare to fly home for the holidays once again, a business deal occurring this month could have a major effect on America’s airline industry for years to come. Less than a week from now, American Airlines and U.S. Airways will merge, becoming the world’s largest airline and ending a months-long legal drama between the airlines and the U.S. government. The merger is a major shake-up to the industry, for sure, but it remains to be seen to what degree the government’s fears of monopolies will be realized.

American and U.S. Airways first agreed to merge in February, but their plans were put on hold in August after the U.S. Department of Justice and the attorneys general of Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against them. The DOJ argued in a statement that “even a small increase in the price of airline tickets, checked bags or flight change fees” as a result of the decreased level of competition “would result in hundreds of millions of dollars of harm to American consumers.”

In October, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott withdrew from the lawsuit, possibly to avoid it being used against him by Democratic opponent Wendy Davis, who supports the merger, in the 2014 gubernatorial election. Only a month later, the DOJ settled with the two airlines, allowing the merger to go forward on the condition that the reorganized American Airlines Group give up some of its gate holdings, mainly at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and LaGuardia Airport in New York City. 

On Dec. 9, the two airlines will sign the merger and officially combine.

Over the next few years, as the airline gradually consolidates its services, flyers should prepare for technical difficulties in the reservation systems, as well as the inescapable labor problems associated with the merger of two companies with more than 100,000 employees between them. For instance, the labor union representing U.S. Airways’ flight attendants and the union representing American Airlines’ flight attendants are still two completely separate entities, so the merger process will be far from over when the corporate executives put pen to paper next Monday.

The concerns over a potential monopoly, while valid, are confined mostly to the nonstop routes operated by only American and U.S. Airways — none of which fly to or from Austin. So any swift, direct impact on the price of your ticket home for Christmas appears unlikely.

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Transportation Ministry says the country’s airline will resume commercial flights to Kuwait for the first time since Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded the Gulf nation in 1990.

A statement posted on the ministry’s official website said Monday that flights between the two “brotherly countries” is due to start next Wednesday for the first time in more than 22 years.

The decision follows an agreement designed to end a long-running dispute over reparations for Kuwaiti airways. Baghdad agreed to pay $500 million in compensation to Kuwait’s national carrier for damage caused during the occupation.

As a result of the new partnership between Texas Sports, UT’s alumni association Texas Exes and Southwest Airlines, the gold lines and red heart that make up the Southwest Airlines logo will have a reserved space on the UT campus for the next five years, most notably at UT football games.

The Dallas-based airline released a statement Monday saying it will sponsor all 20 official UT sports teams and the Texas Exes in a five-year contract beginning fall 2012. The airline, whose CEO Gary Kelly is a UT alumnus, will have a presence at home football games and promotional events throughout the year. It will also be the primary sponsor of the first home football game every year.

Texas Exes spokesman Tim Taliaferro said it has not yet been determined how the money from the sponsorship will be spent.

“I don’t know that we’ve determined what it will go to exactly,” Taliaferro said. “The money isn’t earmarked for any specific need. Texas Exes is delighted to be partnering with the UT athletics program’s and Southwest Airlines’ deal, and we feel it is going to be valuable to our members.”

Taliaferro said the partnership between UT Athletics and Texas Exes is due in part to the efforts of Texas Exes CEO and executive director Leslie Cedar.

“One of Leslie’s real priorities is to improve partnerships on campus, and she has worked at building relationships with other parts of campus like athletics,” Taliaferro said. “I think somewhere in that discussion it became clear that we should all be working together to identify possible sponsors.”

It was cursing — not kissing — that got a lesbian actress and her girlfriend escorted off a plane as it sat at a Texas airport, Southwest Airlines said Tuesday.

The airline said the couple became profane after being reprimanded for what actress Leisha Hailey characterized as “one modest kiss.”

Hailey immediately used her Twitter account to accuse the airline of discrimination and call for a boycott.

Hailey is best known for playing Alice Pieszecki in the now defunct Showtime lesbian life drama “The L-Word.”

The incident cast a national media spotlight on the actress, who is now part of the electro-pop duo Uh Huh Her.

Halley’s publicist Libby Coffey said the encounter was real and was “absolutely not” done as a publicity stunt for her band’s upcoming breast cancer awareness tour.

Hailey and partner Camila Grey also denied in a statement Tuesday that the affection they showed toward each other was inappropriate.

“We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating any kind of spectacle of ourselves. It was one modest kiss,” the written statement said. “We are responsible adult women who walk through the world with dignity. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple.”

The airline responded that Hailey’s display of affection was excessive and drew customer complaints and that the women cursed after being reprimanded.

“Additional reports from our employees and customers onboard Flight 2274 during a stop in El Paso on Sunday now confirm profane language was being used loudly by two passengers,” the airline said. “Although we have reports of what customers characterize as an excessive public display of affection, ultimately their aggressive reaction led to their removal from the aircraft.”

Hailey and Grey acknowledged that they became upset after the flight attendant reprimanded them and told them Southwest is a family airline.

“We take full responsibility for getting verbally upset with the flight attendant,” their statement said. “No matter how quietly homophobia is whispered, it doesn’t make it any less loud.”

Hailey and Gray said they plan to file a formal complaint with the airline.

Details of how the couple was escorted off the flight were not included in the Southwest statement. Initial reports had the flight going from Baltimore to St. Louis, but a tweet by the band says its members were flying from El Paso to Los Angeles, which the airline confirmed.

Hailey said in a tweet that she has an audio and video recording of the encounter between the couple and the flight attendant. It’s not immediately clear who made it. Coffey did not respond to an email requesting access to the recordings.

Hailey also demanded a public apology and a refund from the airline. The airline said it had reached out to all passengers involved to offer refunds.

Southwest’s website says it is the official airline of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Herndon Graddick, GLAAD’s senior director of programs, said companies must train employees to welcome all customers.

“Just like all couples, Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey should be able to express affection in public,” Graddick said. “The widespread outrage around Leisha’s report demonstrates that fair-minded Americans will no longer stand for discrimination of gay and lesbian couples.”

Earlier this month, the Dallas-based airline kicked off Green Day’s lead man Billie Joe Armstrong for wearing his pants too low. The Grammy winner was escorted off a plane after failing to follow a flight attendant’s directive to pull up his pants.

Southwest also removed director Kevin Smith from a flight last year because he didn’t fit properly in a single seat. His first tweet read, “Dear (at)SouthwestAir I know I’m fat, but was (the) captain (...) really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?”