US AIRWAYS' ROUGH RIDE

Specter, other PA lawmakers issue a public rebuke of airline's CEO


Mr. Parker said past commitments from the airline were made by a different leadership and couldn't be applied in today's business climate. Pittsburgh's airport, he said, is a remnant of the outdated "hub-and-spoke" system of air travel, which can't compete with low-cost airlines that fly directly between cities.

One of those airlines, Dallas-based Southwest, plans to add at least two more Pittsburgh flights next year as US Airways retrenches. It is already the airport's second-largest carrier.

Yesterday, it rolled out a new set of "business select" fares that are $10-30 higher than the carrier's current top fares but allow elite travelers to board sooner, receive extra frequent flier miles and a free drink.

The change is part of a larger Southwest strategy to court business travelers. Southwest is also changing its boarding process by assigning each traveler a place in line, and it is updating gates at more than 60 airports, including Pittsburgh International, with stainless steel columns and flat screen televisions.

Mr. Parker said US Airways would always be Pittsburgh's largest carrier.

"OK, write that down," Mr. Specter told reporters.

"That is our hope," Mr. Parker said.

Mr. Specter responded: "That's different."

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