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US Airways Moves Could Cost 1,000 Jobs

US Airways said it will realign around four key cities while pulling back in Boston, Las Vegas, New York and on transatlantic service, moves that will lead to the elimination of as many as 1,000 jobs.
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TEMPE, Ariz. (


) --

US Airways


said it will realign around four key cities while pulling back in Boston, Las Vegas, New York and on transatlantic service, moves that will lead to the elimination of as many as 1,000 jobs.

The carrier also said it will return its Philadelphia-Beijing route authority to the Transportation Department. The 2007 route award was enthusiastically welcomed as a game-changer that would, for the first time, enable US Airways to serve Asia. Now, the first Asian destination is expected to be Tokyo.

See Our Photo Gallery : U.S. Layoffs Mounts

In many ways, the realignment follows up on an August deal with


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, in which US Airways swapped slots at New York LaGuardia for slots at Washington Reagan National and access to congested airports in Tokyo and Sao Paulo. The deal enhanced US Airways' already dominant presence at National.

Now, US Airways says its four key cities are Washington, Charlotte, N.C., Philadelphia and Phoenix. By the end of 2010, they will account for 99% of the carrier's capacity (including shuttle capacity), up from 93% today. Most of the changes will occur this fall and in the first half of 2010.

Among the cutbacks, US Airways will close pilot and flight attendant crew bases at Boston Logan, LaGuardia and Las Vegas. It will cut back Caribbean service from Boston. It will suspend five unsuccessful transatlantic routes from Philadelphia to Birmingham, England; London Gatwick, Milan; Shannon, Ireland, and Stockholm, but will make Brussels and Zurich, Switzerland year-round destinations.

Las Vegas, which was America West's second hub before a 2005 merger with US Airways, continues to shrink. It will have just 36 daily departures, down from 64 today. Las Vegas departures stood at 141 in September 2007, but shrank by about 40% in September 2008, when the airline slashed 1,700 systemwide jobs in response to high fuel costs.

While the America West system bore the brunt of the 2008 cuts, the eastern part of the system will be heavily impacted this time. The 1,000 reductions will include about 600 airport and fleet service workers, 200 pilots and 150 flight attendants. About 165 pilots and 130 flight attendants will come from pre-merger US Airways.

US Airways will also redeploy its remaining 15 E-190 regional jets on Philadelphia- Boston flights and on Boston-LaGuardia shuttle flights, where the load factor on 124-seat Airbus A319s is below 50%. Competitor Delta uses less-spacious E-175s on the route, US Airways said.

In a letter to employees, CEO Doug Parker said the layoffs are difficult but "by focusing on our strengths and eliminating unprofitable flying, we will increase the likelihood of returning US Airways to long-term profitability, which is in all of our best interests." The carrier lost $800 million in 2008, lost money in the first three quarters of 2009, and will likely lose more in the fourth.

"It is obvious that we cannot continue to operate unprofitably forever," Parker said. "It is also clear that the path to sustainable profitability will not simply present itself to us. Any airline 'waiting for the economy to improve' to cure its problems will continue to struggle, and US Airways will not be one of them."

In an interview, Mike Flores, president of the US Airways chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants, said he expects the changes will make the airline stronger, "and I'm fine with that part of it, but I'm not fine with the disruption of peoples' lives while we do this.

"We are not chess pieces," Flores said. While 150 flight attendants face layoffs, more than 300 face base closures that would require commutes to continue working, a challenge at a time of high-load factors throughout the airline industry. Flores intends to negotiate for buyouts and protection when no seats are available for commuting flight attendants.

Last month,


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announced similar change to pull back capacity to its hubs. "It's not rocket science," Flores said. "US Airways is not blazing a trail here -- they never do. But they get a more streamlined operation and they put their assets where their customers are."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.