Nope, the earliest mergers were about consolidation. All you do is pick a period where HP was the among the first to merge. Make it this century and Doug is not the first - AA/TWA, AF/KLM. Even ATA, which Parker tried unsuccessfully to buy, was picked up by WN. Parker's "innovation" was attempting to merge with the other airline was in bankruptcy, which is nothing more than his "do it on the cheap" way of doing business - be it employees, mergers, airplanes, whatever. How often has he said US has had problems finding replacement 757's "at the right price" (lower than others will pay). How often has he said that US can't pay employees what the other carriers can.
You are the industry and historical expert so I will defer to you on those matters. However, as far a picking a period, I was selecting a time period when Doug was CEO and was in a position to pursue a merger. The fact that he was in that position for ten days prior to 9/11 also seems significant since that changed a lot of factors in the industry in regards to profitability and solvency concerns for most of the majors.
I don't archive articles, but I do remember reading some national news stories back in 2005 which were quoting industry sources (something like the Boyd Group, but I could be wrong) that went into great detail about how Doug was the only airline executive that was championing consolidation. I also remember quotes from Franke about how Doug talked about the need for consolidation in his interview to come to AWA and how Franke viewed Doug as having remarkable insight into what the industry needed to do to gain long-term profitability and sustainability. This was all couched in the concept that Doug was not at all like other CEOs and he had a strong resolve to reduce seats and gain pricing power that seemed absent from his peers at the time. Now the article(s) may have just been a PR piece, but I do recall reading those things back then.
Again, if I recall correctly, one of the big objections to the US/DL takeover was that there was too much overlap in the routes for certain people's comfort. Overlap means consolidation options and pricing power. Now compare that to the limited overlap at DL/NW or UA/CO and tell me again how all CEOs strive for consolidation rather than expanded marketshare. If you are focused on consolidation you seek overlap. If you seek marketshare you seek complimentary routes, right? IMO consolidation of corporate headquarters and changing a hub or two into a focus city is a far cry from substantially reducing the number of seats flying between city pairs throughout the network.
Wisdom is too lofty for a fool. (Proverbs 24:7)