In airport concourses US Airways has cut almost 500

Kevin Tinta remembers the days, not too long ago, when his sandwich shop at Pittsburgh International Airport couldn't keep up with the crowds, when lines stretched down the concourse and he hardly had time to take a break. Now, the few employees that...


Kevin Tinta remembers the days, not too long ago, when his sandwich shop at Pittsburgh International Airport couldn't keep up with the crowds, when lines stretched down the concourse and he hardly had time to take a break.

Now, the few employees that work at Charley's Steakery at the far end of the B concourse, can go eight hours without seeing a flight take off or land.

"A lot of times there's nothing for us to do," said Mr. Tinta, the manager.

The shop's plight is just one indication of the hard times that have befallen this once mighty hub. And it could get worse in January, when US Airways cuts another 40 flights and drops 18 of its 28 gates in Pittsburgh.

The cutbacks will leave the airline with 68 daily flights and 1,800 local employees, down from highs of 542 flights and 11,995 workers before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks dealt a devastating blow to US Airways and the entire airline industry.

Altogether, the 13 airlines at the airport offer an average of 227 daily non stop flights, down from 633 in August, 2001.

Nowhere are the changes more evident than on the A and B concourses, at one time the muscle behind US Airways' dominance at its former hub, with control over all 50 gates.

Once crammed with vacation travelers and anxious business people hustling to make connections, both wings have gone from bustling to boarded up.

In the A concourse, yellow caution tape is strung across the entrances to several former US Airways gate areas. Wallpaper and logos have been stripped away and most monitors are blank.

US Airways also has shut down a special services center in the middle of the wing. One day last week, the concourse had the feel of a wake, with the spacious aisles all but empty.

Visitors had no trouble hearing the announcements or the music coming from the airport's sound system. While it might have been tough to hear a pin drop, it was quite easy to pick up the high-pitched squeals of a video game coming from a bar.

At the end of the A concourse, a bank of five gates sat largely unused, with the lone exceptions being commuter flights to DuBois and Bradford/Jamestown. About 15 travelers waited to board.

It wasn't long ago that the gates harbored some of US Airways' biggest planes. Now they serve as a base for the airline's commuter flights. A turboprop idled on the tarmac, waiting to haul a handful of travelers to DuBois.

"It never was like this. This place used to be packed," said Stan Foster, sales and marketing manager for SGL Group, as he waited to board.

In January, US Airways will abandon the A concourse altogether, where it once occupied all 25 gates, and consolidate what's left of its operations in the B concourse where it will keep 10 gates.

That will leave only Southwest Airlines, which started operations in Pittsburgh in May 2005, and its three gates on the A concourse. Twenty two others will be empty.

The airport authority is still trying to determine what to do with those gates, spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said. One possibility may be to relocate other airlines now operating out of the C and D concourses to A, a move that would have been unthinkable six years ago.

"There's something bubbling and percolating in the planning process," she said. "It's not likely that that concourse is going to stay vacant for a lengthy period of time."

The gate consolidation could bring a shot of life to the B concourse, which has suffered much the same fate as the A concourse because of the repeated US Airways cutbacks.

While the first half of the corridor still brims with US Airways activity, the rest of it is dormant, much like a computer in sleep mode.

At the very end of the B concourse, five gates are empty and the monitors black. On this day, state officials are using one corner of the mammoth waiting area to discuss assistance available to displaced US Airways employees.

It's the only sign of life, and a sad one at that.

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