End Nears for Unit of US Airways

US Airways expects to complete the shutdown of its MidAtlantic Airways division by the end of May, resulting in the layoff of 290 employees, mostly pilots and flight attendants, in Philadelphia, and 78 workers in Pittsburgh, airline officials said yesterday.

MidAtlantic's fleet of 25 Embraer regional jets will continue to be part of the US Airways Express network, operated by Republic Airways, a US Airways partner based in Indianapolis.

Some MidAtlantic pilots and flight attendants have been offered jobs at Republic, which bought or assumed leases on the 70-seat Embraer jets as part of the US Airways bankruptcy reorganization last year, US Airways and Republic officials said.

In a letter dated Monday, US Airways told the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry that the layoffs would begin May 28 or within 14 days thereafter.

US Airways spokesman Philip Gee said the eventual dismantling of MidAtlantic, which is based in Pittsburgh, was anticipated a year ago.

After the layoffs, US Airways will employ 5,100 people at Philadelphia International Airport.

US Airways struck the deal to sell the regional jets to Republic last March, almost two months before US Airways' proposed acquisition by America West Holdings Corp. was announced. Under the deal, Republic paid $100 million for the 25 jets and other assets, giving US Airways badly needed cash as it emerged from Chapter 11 protection Sept. 27 and began merging its operations with America West Airlines'.

MidAtlantic started operating in 2004 as a way to help US Airways cut its operating costs. It was created when the pilots' union, the Air Line Pilots Association, agreed to a "Jets for Jobs" program that provided for MidAtlantic flights to be flown only by laid-off US Airways pilots. Likewise, MidAtlantic flight-attendant jobs were filled with furloughed US Airways attendants, the company said at the time. The pilots and flight attendants agreed to work for lower wages than they had been making at US Airways' mainline operations.

Jack Stephan, a spokesman for the US Airways pilots, said the union was sad that more of its members were losing their jobs and disappointed that most of those laid off would not have jobs at Republic. But the union is pleased that US Airways recently began recalling furloughed pilots for its mainline operations, and that some pilots laid off at MidAtlantic could be flying for the airline again, he said.

Republic's parent, Republic Airways Holdings, also owns Chautauqua Airlines, another US Airways Express partner. Chautauqua and Republic together operate about 300 US Airways Express flights a day, spokesman Warren Wilkinson said.

Philadelphia Inquirer


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