Leaders of the soon-to-be-merged US Airways and America West Airlines expect the carriers' cultural integration to be their toughest challenge - and they jumped headlong into it yesterday at Philadelphia International and four other airports.
The airlines staged a daylong celebration of a new aircraft paint scheme and logo that pay tribute to five airlines, past and present, that will be represented by the US Airways name.
The side of each plane, just to the right of the passenger door, will be adorned with a "heritage logo," with U-S in the middle, surrounded by the logos of America West and three airlines subsumed by US Airways in the 1970s and 1980s: Allegheny, Piedmont and PSA. The new color scheme uses white for most of the fuselage, but leaves intact the US Airways typeface and stylized flag on the tail.
The first plane to get the paint job, an Airbus A320, skipped yesterday from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, Charlotte, N.C., Las Vegas and Phoenix, carrying officials from the companies and showing the colors to employees and local officials. Two dozen retired or longtime US Airways employees, wearing their old uniforms from the various carriers, came along for the ride.
"Today is all about tradition," America West chairman and chief executive officer W. Douglas Parker, who will run the merged airline, said at the Philadelphia stop. "We need to run an efficient operation and take care of our customers. But we don't want to lose sight of who we were."
Parker came up with the idea of celebrating US Airways' legacy as he surfed the Internet, finding Web sites run by former employees of the old airlines that celebrated the history of each. As the fleet of more than 700 planes is repainted over the next few years, US Airways will keep the old paint schemes of its predecessors on four jets, Parker said.
The companies have said they will take two to three years to fully integrate their workforces. But for US Airways employees, after three years of gloomy prospects, pay cuts, and two trips through Bankruptcy Court, "the mood has changed," said US Airways president and chief executive Bruce R. Lakefield, who will be vice chairman of the new company. "People believe we actually have a future."
Marianne Moore, a Piedmont and US Airways flight attendant for 34 years who dressed for the day in her multicolored Piedmont uniform from the 1970s, said many US Airways employees shared her optimism about the merger.
"They're ecstatic," she said. "They haven't had anything to be hopeful about in a long time."
Copyright 2005 Associated Press
The success of the venture depends largely on how well the airlines blend two mostly unionized workforces, each with pride in their company's history, Parker said at a meeting
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With the American Airlines and US Airways Group merger completed Monday, the hard work begins of integrating the carriers to create the world's largest airline.