Cover Story: US Airways shuffle

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - One of Charlotte biggest employers  US Airways announcing 1,000 layoffs, direct flights slashed.  What does the shuffle means for Charlotte?

US Airways is pulling back.  The company lost $800 million last year and will lose hundreds of millions this year. The bottom line is the reason US Airways is shedding extra baggage.

Does Charlotte need to be worried?  There was a time when we would be.  But in the last few years, US Airways has been beefing up Charlotte.

And with Wednesday's announcement the airline made it clear it's going to concentrate even more on its core operations.. which includes the Queen City.

When the news went out this afternoon in e-mail from US Airways CEO Doug Parker, Charlotte breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Saying "it is obvious we cannot continue to operate unprofitably forever" Parker announced cuts throughout the system.

The airline reducing flying, 1,000 layoffs and closing crew bases in Las Vegas, LaGuardia and Boston.  In addition the airline will be scaling back some international routes out of Philadelphia.

But no cuts whatsoever to Charlotte.  In fact--- some pilots and flight attendants crews will be moved to the Queen City.

"They're consolidating around their strengths.. you'd have to say that's smart."

Ted Reed, aviation writer for says since US Airways merger with America West four years ago and America West management took over they've put even more emphasis into Charlotte.  The airline has concentrated operations and added flights here, propelling the Queen City to become the ninth busiest airport in the country.  US Airways' Charlotte employee base is now to more than 5,600.

"This is a result of the economy."

UNC Charlotte Economics professor John Connaughton says US Airways' major pullback shouldn't come as a surprise.

Business and leisure travel are down.  While airlines have tried to push fares up.. that's been met with passenger protest.

"They've got to make a choice," he says.  "Do they try to fill their airplanes will low fares or do they try to fly fewer seats.  US Airways made the decision they're going to pare the number of seats."

Once today's changes take effect US Airways will do 99 percent of its flying through its three hubs: Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix and a fourth city Washington.

Which sounds good but when the economy improves doesn't it leave the airline susceptible to another carrier swooping in?

Says Ted Reed, "Someday there's going to be demand because airline travel customer passenger growth has been growing for decades and there's not going to be enough airplaces and then someone's going to come in and provide those airplanes.. someone else."

While Charlotte's been spared... employee groups aren't happy.

1,000 layoffs and closing crew bases.. which means for some having to report to work in a different city.

The head of US Airways' flight attendants union responding harshly today, saying we are not chess pieces.

They're closing the crew bases in some cities and moving some of them here.. how's that going to cut costs?

They're still going to fly to those cities.  They just won't have supervisory operations there to support that crew you're eliminating overhead.