US Airways Smooths Out 2004 Problems at Phila. Int'l Airport

Tense moments seemed few and far between yesterday at Philadelphia International Airport - nothing like what travelers faced a year ago at this time.

"Really, everyone just breezed through," airport spokesman Mark Pesce said late yesterday afternoon.

About 85,000 travelers were expected to pass through the airport yesterday, he said. Last night, they were doing so largely without incident. Much the same was expected today, one of the lightest traveling days of the year.

Air travel was hardly as smooth last Christmas, when US Airways was struggling with hundreds of canceled flights and thousands of lost bags. For three days, travelers missed flights, and many spent the holiday without their luggage, or slept in hotels or inside the airport waiting to be reunited with their bags.

Two days before Christmas, a large number of baggage handlers and flight attendants had called in sick, and severe weather in other parts of the country caused widespread flight cancellations. US Airways, now under new management, was then operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and still needed deals with its flight attendants and its machinists' unions.

The airline said it was understaffed by about 250 workers last year; this year, it said, it was overstaffed by 150.

In addition, US Airways, which carries 60 percent of passengers here, has purchased new equipment, including 30 new baggage carts.

"We've been meeting with US Airways managers since last Christmas to make sure those types of baggage delivery problems did not happen - and they haven't," Pesce said.

For its part, the airport has installed new carpeting, lighting and flat-screen televisions in the baggage claim area.

There was at least one tense moment yesterday.

Shontay Young, who had just flown in from Phoenix with three youngsters under the age of 5 and his wife, realized two baby car seats had not come off the carousel with his family's luggage.

They were soon found by one of the roving US Airways information staffers.

Philadelphia Inquirer


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