Jan. 4 -- Philadelphia International Airport has resolved a dispute over the use of departure gates that will enable US Airways to add flights to three European cities this spring and Southwest Airlines to expand service next fall, airport officials said yesterday.
US Airways, which already flies between Philadelphia and 16 European cities, said it would start flying daily to Athens, Greece, on May 25; to Brussels, Belgium, on June 1; and to Zurich, Switzerland, on June 8. The service to Brussels and Zurich will operate year-round, while the flights to Athens will be seasonal, ending Oct. 6.
US Airways' plans for more European flights were announced the same day the federal government released data that showed that all the airport's carriers were operating more flights on time last year than they did in 2005.
City aviation director Charles J. Isdell said the impasse between US Airways and the airport over providing more gates for international flights was resolved the week of Dec. 21 at a meeting between airline chief executive officer Doug Parker, Mayor Street, and commerce director Stephanie Naidoff.
The agreement gives the two airlines what they need to increase their use of the airport, Isdell said. "We had a delighted reaction from both US Airways and Southwest," he said.
Early last year, US Airways objected to an airport plan that had been in the works for months involving which gates would be leased to two airlines, Delta and Southwest.
The airport, with Delta's consent, wanted to move the airline's operations from three gates it now uses in Terminal E, next to Southwest, to three gates in Terminal A-East, which is used by both domestic and international airlines. Southwest Airlines Co. officials said they would be able to start service to more cities and to add flights to those it already serves if it could lease the gates in Terminal E that Delta occupies.
But US Airways, the airport's dominant carrier with more than 60 percent of the passengers and flights, objected to moving Delta, saying Terminal A-East should be reserved for overseas flights. US Airways said the 12 gates it uses in the main international concourse, A-West, would not be enough to enable it to add the new flights to Athens, Brussels and Zurich.
The dispute grew more complicated when US Airways Group Inc. announced Nov. 15 that it made an unsolicited $8.4 billion bid to acquire Delta Air Lines Inc., which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Isdell said. Delta has rejected US Airways' overtures.
The impasse was resolved by postponing Delta's move out of Terminal E until about Oct. 15, when US Airways cuts back its service to Europe as the summer travel season ends, he said.
"That gave US Airways the confidence they could do those additional flights this summer... and that they had the gate capacity they need," Isdell said.
US Airways officials have said they would also like to offer flights to five or six additional European cities, as yet unidentified, if they could find even more airport gates to lease. US Airways officials did not return a phone call yesterday to discuss the new service and the agreement with the airport.
Southwest officials were pleased with the outcome.
"We're thrilled," said spokeswoman Whitney Eichenger. "We're certainly gratified that we'll be able to expand our low-fare service in Philly."
Southwest has not determined where it will add flights from Philadelphia, she said.
In the data about on-time performance, issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Philadelphia International moved from last place to No. 27, among the nation's 31 largest airports, for on-time departures during the first 11 months of 2006, compared with the same period the year before. For on-time arrivals, the airport ranked 25th out of 31 for the 11 months through November, compared with 28th place the year before.
The impasse was resolved by postponing Delta's move out of Terminal E until about Oct. 15, when US Airways cuts back its service to Europe.
Neither Southwest nor US Airways can add flights as they would like until the disagreement ends.
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