The resistance to the merger is increasing ... It might yet be approved , but far from certain .
For the traveling public and the whole industry - life will continue either way ... Political tides are always shifting .... and times have changed. .
Do not rule out a capricious decision . The banks may be a swing factor ... The airline business has always been very risky...a trail of tears for investors and employees .There are much better risk reward options for the pragmatic investor .
There will most likely be a settlement. Whether the settlement is good for shareholders is a different story (both the DOJ and the airlines will put the creditors and the public interest ahead of shareholders). The DOJ can't afford the public embarrassment of losing a high profile case, the DOJ is understaffed, and recent rulings have all been on the side of the airlines. If the DOJ had a strong case, they wouldn't need to delay the trial until March.
Ultimately, the DOJ is going to have a hard time convincing a judge why all the other airlines were allowed to merge, but AA and US Air should be punished for trying to succeed on their own and being the last to admit that a merger is in their long term mutual best interest. Once some issues like landing spots at Reagan are cleared up, I think that a merger will be announced shortly before or after the trial begins. When both sides publicly acknowledge that a settlement is still on the table, chances are the devil will be in the details---and these things always get sorted out at the last minute.