Delta Bid Could Delay US Airways Operations Center Decision

Jan. 13 -- An aggressive bid to buy rival Delta Air Lines could delay a decision by US Airways on whether to locate a $25 million flight operations center in Pittsburgh, Phoenix or Charlotte, N.C., the Allegheny County Airport Authority board was told yesterday.

"The time frame may slip a little bit, but not by more than 60 days," Authority Executive Director Kent George said. The decision, originally expected by Feb. 1, could come as late as mid-March, he said.

But US Airways spokesman Morgan Durrant said he was not aware of any delay caused by the Delta bid and said the airline still is on track to announce its decision on the operations center in February.

Pittsburgh is competing against Phoenix and Charlotte for the right to build the airline's nerve center, which tracks departures, arrivals and flights across the country. The state and county have put together a $16.25 million package of incentives to try to entice US Airways to build the facility here. Phoenix has offered incentives valued at as much as $36 million. Charlotte's bid is not known.

Mr. George said he expects the airline to build the center even if it ends up acquiring Delta, whose main hub operates from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

US Airways now has two operations centers, one in Pittsburgh and one in Phoenix, resulting from the merger between America West and the old US Airways. Mr. George said the Federal Aviation Administration has been pressing the airline to reduce the number to one.

Pittsburgh would lose 450 jobs if the center moves to either Charlotte or Phoenix. About 150 new jobs would come here if Pittsburgh wins and the Phoenix center is closed.

Also yesterday, Mr. George said the airport authority plans to meet with the Port Authority to "come up with a formula" to save the 28X Airport Flyer route targeted for elimination under its cutback plan.

"We need transportation out here," authority board Chairman Glenn Mahone said. "A lot of our employees have no other way to get here." Mr. George hinted that the authority might consider subsidizing the route but added that " we have to look at the facts before we can say anything along those lines."

Separately, the board voted to award raises ranging from 4.9 percent to 8.1 percent to the authority's top administrators, including Mr. George, retroactive to Jan. 1.

The increases will push Mr. George's salary from $205,000 to $215,000 a year; Chief Operating Officer Brad Penrod's pay from $125,000 to $135,000; and Chief Financial Officer Mike Scureman's salary from $111,000 to $120,000.

The salaries come from the airport's operating budget, which is funded by the airlines.

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