SPECTER, CASEY BLISTER US AIRWAYS SAY AIRLINE BREACHED COMMITMENTS TO CITY AND SHOULD RECONSIDER CUTBACKS

U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey slammed US Airways yesterday for what they called "breached" commitments to the Pittsburgh area and urged the airline to reconsider its vast cutbacks and its treatment of local workers. "The point is, we've gone...


On Oct. 3, Mr. Gentile said he got a call at 9:30 a.m. informing him of the airline's decision to make new cuts. "I went running upstairs and confronted" Mr. Parker, who was in Pittsburgh to tell employees what was happening. Mr. Gentile asked the CEO about the assurances given in the Aug. 24 e-mail.

"I think he said something about 'I know what I wrote you.'"

"I said, 'I better read it to you again.'"

"Doug said, 'I had to. We are losing $40 million a year. We can't operate like that.'"

Not satisfied with that explanation, the Association of Flight Attendants hired a financial analyst to examine the company's books. "I didn't see anything compelling in the company's justification for why this had to be done," Mr. Gentile said. "Not to this extent."

In a statement, US Airways said, "The airline industry today is vastly different than it was 15 years ago when the commitments Sen. Specter references were made, and long before the merger of US Airways and America West. Since that merger, we've worked very hard to find ways to make Pittsburgh viable against the new realities of the industry, including the impacts of low-cost carriers and sky-high fuel prices.

"Our decision to draw down flying again -- made two years after the merger -- reflects a great deal of soul-searching and our best judgment of ways to make Pittsburgh viable, and measured against a backdrop of the right decisions for all employees across the US Airways system."

That mirrors what Mr. Parker argued to Mr. Specter in a prior letter sent on Oct. 15, after the senator complained to an Airport Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon about US Airways' customer service and its lack of "consideration" for this area.

The CEO said he was not with the airline when some of these decisions were made and even offered an apology to the senator "if one of my predecessors led you to believe that US Airways would commit to maintaining service levels in Pittsburgh similar to where it was in the 1990s."

Mr. Parker joined US Airways two years ago when he engineered the merger of the old US Airways, based in Arlington, Va., with America West Airlines.

Mr. Specter dismissed his arguments, saying the airline still has a duty to uphold commitments made by its former leadership.

"I would like to see them get out a sharp pencil and go back to the drawing board," he said. "If Southwest [Airlines] can add lines, and other carriers can add lines, so can US Airways."

He and Mr. Casey said they planned to convene a meeting of the full Pennsylvania congressional delegation to discuss how to handle the airline's future legislative needs, although Mr. Specter added that lawmakers weren't "making any threats."

Still, he said of the airline, "I think they'll feel this pressure."

We Recommend