No local effects expected from US Airways cutbacks


Oct. 30--An announcement of staffing and flight cutbacks by one of two commercial carriers serving Coastal Carolina Regional Airport is not expected to hurt operations or service in the area.

U.S. Airways announced a smaller-than-expected, third-quarter loss on Wednesday, but its chairman and chief executive said the company still plans to cut about 1,000 of its 32,400 employees and cut flights to some destinations. That plan puts more focus on domestic hubs in Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

"We're comfortable and don't see any adverse effect," said Tom Braaten, director of Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in Craven County.

A US Airways spokesperson in Charlotte said Thursday that since Coastal Carolina Regional Airport is served by wholly owned subsidiaries, Piedmont and PSA airlines, the announced staff cuts do no affect employees working here.

"I had advance warning from US Airways of the press release," Braaten said. "We talked about it and don't see any affect on us."

"I was glad to see they said over and over again they are focusing on their domestic hubs," he said. "Charlotte can only fly so many if we don't bring them there. As long as people continue to use the airport, it is good for Charlotte and good for the company."

Passenger traffic in and out of Coastal Carolina Regional Airport was up in 2009 in July, August and September, compared to traffic during those same months in 2008.

Company spokespeople for US Airways Group were reportedly upbeat about rebounding passenger traffic when announcing belt-tightening plans aimed at making the company profitable again. The U.S. airline spent time in bankruptcy in the air industry shakeup following 9/11, but it has emerged as the commercial carrier with the sixth-largest number of passengers.

Doug Parker, the company's chairman and chief executive, said in a letter to employees that "by focusing on our strengths and eliminating unprofitable flying, we will increase the likelihood of returning ... to long-term profitability."

Plans call for closing crew bases in Boston, Las Vegas and LaGuardia Airport in New York. Plans also call for trimming flights from Las Vegas, dropping service to Colorado Springs, Colo., and Wichita, Kan., and redeploying regional jets to Boston.

The plans also include maintaining a large presence at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. That includes keeping East Coast shuttle service and having flights touching Reagan and the hubs that account for 99 percent of its business by the end of next year, compared with 93 percent now.

US Airways Group revenue fell nearly 17 percent to $2.7 billion in the quarter that ended in September. It posted a net loss of $80 million, or 60 cents a share, for the third quarter, compared with a net loss of $866 million, or $8.46 a share, in the same quarter a year earlier.

High fuel prices and the recession hurt the company's bottom line, particularly affecting business travel cutbacks for international flights.

The company also plans to suspend service to five European destinations including Birmingham, United Kingdom; London's Gatwick Airport; Milan; Stockholm; and Shannon, Ireland. It said it intends to give up unused route authority for serving Beijing from Philadelphia, but plans to retain the option to reapply.

Scott Kirby, the US Airways president, said last week that the company is seeing business traffic rebound and that there are indications the economic recovery should allow carriers to implement fare increases.

Sue Book can be reached at 252-635-5666 or