Bird Hunting Season?

For U.S. airlines, the drumbeat of retrenchment has been echoing for years. Now, with USAir Inc.'s sudden announcement on Oct. 2 that it is holding preliminary merger talks with both United Airlines and American Airlines, a new period of consolidation may be about to begin. Even the possibility that United or American may pull off a deal to buy ailing USAir could well force rivals to contemplate bulking up, too. "Once you pull that trigger, you've got all the other gunslingers out there," says Jon F. Ash, managing director of consulting firm Global Aviation Associates Ltd.

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