American Airlines and US Airways have made tentative plans to announce a merger early next week, according to four sources familiar with the planning.
The sources caution no final decisions have been made, but that the announcement could come as early as Tuesday morning.
US Airways CEO Doug Parker would head the merged airline, which instantly would become the world's largest.
Under the scenario, now in its final stages, American Airlines CEO Tom Horton would accept a multimillion dollar payout to exit the company or take an honorary post on the board of directors in which he has no real power, the sources said.
An American spokesman said late Wednesday the company has no comment on rumors or speculation.
Unions representing pilots, flight attendants and ground workers have pushed for months for the merger. Privately, union leaders expressed cautious jubilation that the announcement appeared close.
A new merged airline would be based in Fort Worth and operate under the American name. The US Airways brand would go away.
American declared bankruptcy Nov. 29, 2011 and is expected to emerge in the next few months.
One source who supports the merger said Horton was still "throwing grenades in the room" and still opposed combining companies right now -- even as his own managers were preparing for the transition without him.
Another person with close knowledge of the deliberations of the creditors' committee said the influential group has essentially agreed on the valuation of each airline -- somewhere close to 75 percent for American and 25 percent for US Airways. That would bring more money to American's creditors because the talks started at 70 percent and 30 percent.