Tempe, Ariz.,-based America West was founded in 1983 and operates flights across the country through its hubs in Phoenix and Las Vegas. When Parker took over as chief executive in 2001, the company had a reputation for delaying flights and losing luggage. It narrowly avoided bankruptcy in 2001 after securing a $429 million loan guarantee from the federal government.
Its service record has since improved, but its earnings have been mixed, mostly because of high fuel costs and cheaper fares by other carriers.
While the entire airline industry has struggled since the Sept. 11 attacks, US Airways' difficulties have been particularly acute. Even before then, federal regulators rejected a proposed takeover by UAL Corp.'s United Airlines that US Airways executives had believed would cure the carrier's woes.
After Sept. 11, US Airways suffered from the prolonged closure of Reagan National Airport across the river from downtown Washington, D.C., where it was the largest carrier. High-fare business travel, which had been one of US Airways' strengths, dried up. Long security lines at airports persuaded many travelers to drive rather than fly on some of the short-haul flights in which US Airways had specialized.
When US Airways first filed for bankruptcy in 2002, it exited after only eight months after winning about $1 billion a year in labor concessions. The airline believed its new cost structure would allow it to compete with the other ''legacy'' carriers it viewed as its competition.
The company's exit from bankruptcy was sped along thanks to a $900 million government loan that was part of a post Sept. 11 bailout of the industry. It was also helped by a $240 million investment from the Retirement Systems of Alabama, a pension fund whose chief executive, David Bronner, had built a reputation as something of a maverick.
But company executives were forced to admit they underestimated the growth of low-fare carriers. US Airways needed to compete not just with legacy carriers like United and AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, but with low-fare airlines like JetBlue and AirTran Holdings Inc.
Bronner, who now serves as US Airways' chairman, has said that one reason a merger between US Airways and America West can work is that US Airways' management team will be happy to step to the sidelines. Lakefield is a longtime associate of Bronner who had no experience in the airline industry before his appointment to the US Airways board of directors in 2003.
As part of an earlier search for capital before its talks with America West heated up, US Airways was able to convince two regional carriers, Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. and Republic Airways Holdings Inc., to each invest $125 million in US Airways. The investments came with the condition that US Airways agree to use those carriers as part of its US Airways Express regional fleet.
The deal with Wexford Capital, which controls Republic Airways, was also conditioned on US Airways' ability to attract additional financing. It also required US Airways to sell valuable slots at Reagan National Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York, though US Airways also retained the right to repurchase those slots.
The deals with both Air Wisconsin and Republic gave US Airways the opportunity to walk away if it found a partner willing to invest on more favorable terms.
Because the airline industry was struggling in 2004 and 2005, the airline concluded that the $250 million in investments from the two regional carriers was insufficient to boost the company out of bankruptcy.
US Airways announced Wednesday it would drop fares on its Monterey-Las Vegas flights, in response to a request by airport officials.