Officials at the state’s largest airports say the proposed merger of United and Continental Airlines could expand the number of potential destinations for those flying out of Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. United has the second-largest number of customers at the Des Moines International Airport, while Continental provides only two flights out of Des Moines per day.

Don Smithey, the aviation director at the Des Moines airport, doubts the merger will prompt the two carriers to consolidate many flights out of Des Moines. “Looking at the markets the do serve — United both Chicago and Denver (and) Continental serves neither of those markets; they currently serve Houston,” Smithey says. “So therefore I would expect that the merger would probably continue to serve those same markets and possibly in the future look at other opportunities out of Des Moines to serve other markets.”

The Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids lost service to Cincinnati when Delta merged with Northwest two years ago. But Pam Hinman, the Eastern Iowa Airport’s communications director, says a United/Continental pairing shouldn’t cause the same kind of disruption. “We only have two cities with United (service out of her airport). They both do very well. Our Denver service is our only true western connection; Chicago O’Hare obviously a huge connector market for us,” Hinman says.

“So I don’t want to jinx it but I just don’t see that we would have a detriment with this.” Officials at the Quad Cities International Airport also say the merger could result in expanded service for customers flying out of Moline. United or United Express flies out of airports in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Burlington and the Quad Cities. Continental flies out of Des Moines.