CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Three years after the merger between US Airways (LCC) and America West, it seems clear the deal was an overall success.
Still, the inability to reach an agreement on pilot seniority stands out as a glaring shortcoming.
Without a merger, "neither the standalone US Airways nor the standalone America West could have managed through," said CEO Doug Parker, in a recent interview. "Both these airlines would be nonexistent had they not merged. But merged, we saved 35,000 jobs."
At the same time, "pilot seniority is not something we contemplated we'd still be dealing with three years later", Parker admitted.The bitter seniority conflict follows an arbitrator's ruling that was deemed unacceptable by most pilots from the former US Airways. It has been accompanied by an April election that ousted the Air Line Pilots Association after 57 years, and a series of lawsuits. On the positive side, "our pilots are keeping this between themselves," Parker said. "We've had no customers see this affect them in the last three years. People read about it, but it hasn't affected our operations one bit." Meanwhile, Charlotte and Philadelphia, the two hubs operated by the former US Airways, have been the strongest links in the new carrier. They have suffered minimal capacity reduction despite cuts of about 25% in Las Vegas and 10% in Phoenix, which has come as the industry moves to reduce total capacity by an unprecedented 10% in response to higher fuel prices.