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Old 11-01-2007, 07:35 AM   #1
JBM
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Default Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Spector, Casey blister US Airways

US Senators Arlen Specter (R) and Robert Casey (D) "slammed US Airways yesterday for what they called 'breached' commitments to the Pittsburgh area and urged the airline to reconsider its vast cutbacks and its treatment of local workers."

For the full article, see http://www.postgazette.com/pg/07305/830274-28.stm

Comment: I don't think it's necessarily fair to hold Doug Parker's feet to the fire for commitments made by US Airways before his America West bought out the former and merged the two. On the other hand, it is absolutely fair to hold his feet to the fire for his apparent inability to speak with candor when people ask legitimate questions about current and near-term plans. If you say, "We have no plans do do this or that," but then a few weeks later you do precisely this and that, your credibility is pretty much shot.
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Old 11-01-2007, 12:57 PM   #2
Anita Dunham-Potter
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As a taxpayer in PA, also a resident of the Pittsburgh area, former US Airways employee and spouse of current employee, I fully support Senators Specter and Casey going after US Airways. Simply put (we the taxpayers of PA) have given our monies in support of this company for decades -- be it new airport, other buildings, support services, etc. US Airways signed a CONTRACT and it states that they would in exchange for use of these facilities they would operate them at specific levels -- abandonment is not an option. I don't care what Doug Parker says, he acquired US Airways knowing these very contract issues. He's the CEO of a major airline, if he's saying he's not responsible for what his predecessors did then he had no business acquiring US Airways. This is no longer a bankrupt airline; it's making money and has over 3.4 billion in cash. Perhaps the state of PA needs to sue and get a lot of the tax breaks and other funds back. I am all for it.

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Old 11-01-2007, 01:14 PM   #3
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I agree with you, Anita, a client and I were just talking about this at lunch. He's been one of their top tier mileage members since they developed the tier system and is disgusted with them. He tells me that there is a rumbling amongst the Chairman's members in the PIT area to move that loyalty to another carrier enmass. They figure that if they have to change planes somewhere who cares whether it is Charlotte, Atlanta or Chicago? (any of them are better than Philadelphia!)

I really do think that the state should bring a suit against them. And as to PIT becoming unprofitable, whose fault is that? They fought for years to keep Southwest and discount carriers out of Pittsburgh. Nature and business hate having a void and will react to fill it.
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Old 11-01-2007, 01:36 PM   #4
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Hi Lynn,

I am a top-tier Gold right now and will probably make Platinum this year -- I have 12 more segments to fly on US Airways and Star Alliance carriers before the end of the year. I've already contacted Continental and Delta and they will take me at a similar status. I am seriously considering it.

I've flown US Airways four times across the pond this year and I am so dismayed at how bad the service is onboard these flights. I used to work these very flights and it really galls me to see how bad the new US Airways management has let it get this bad. When I mean service, I mean amenities, especially food, it is so bad I cannot describe it. The flight attendants are doing the best with what little they have to work with. I feel for them. If US Airways were to spend just $2 more per passenger the food would improve immensely.

Then to connect home to PIT from PHL I am subjected to an E-170. I don't get Parker or Kirby, at 5:55 PM they have a small jet traveling from PHL-PIT -- this flight was packed with people like me that had connected from Europe -- a lot of people on my Rome flight were forced to wait several hours more for a bigger jet. When you have a huge bank of International flights arriving you don't feed one of your largest connection cities with a small jet -- it's just downright poor planning. This sort of thing is what led me to contact Continental and Delta Air Lines, who are ethusiastically lobbying for my business. It's nice to be wooed -- I am just worn out on US Airways. The new mangement has not proven to me to be good stewards of the airline.

As for PIT, well, if you cut the legs off a chair it doesn't stand a chance does it? Simply put, when US Airways stopped feeding flights into PIT they killed the hub. This was not due to Southwest or any other airline, this was a calculated decision by Doug Parker and Scott Kirby. I think they had the PIT hub closure planned from the day they acquired US Airways; in fact, I am certain of it.

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Old 11-01-2007, 02:04 PM   #5
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I know that the international service, or rather lack of service, is what is really getting to this client as well, Anita. He flies upfront on 90% of his flights and when he goes to Europe I usually get him the premium seats that fully recline in row 1. In July when he made a trip to Prague we did just that, he paid the $600 per person for those seats only to find that they were not offered on that flight. I had booked them with Chairman's. We then began the battle to get the refund, and it was a battle. I fought for nearly 3 months, all they wanted to do was offer a $200 credit, not per person, total. I could not get them to understand that he had paid for something he did not get. I finally wrote to Doug Parker and had the credit issued within a week.

Now I don't think for a second that the service and/or refund agents are simply not wanting them to do their jobs, they are doing as instructed. And the gamble is that someone will 'settle'. Whatever happend to exceeding expectations? When I was flying that was expected of me. Today it is as if the employees are told to get away with as much, by doing as little, as possible. Sad.
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Old 11-01-2007, 02:12 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter View Post
I think they had the PIT hub closure planned from the day they acquired US Airways; in fact, I am certain of it.
Of course. Hub elimination is a key part of combining and consolidating multiple airlines. Even in discussions of a possible DL/NW merger everyone is saying MEM and CVG will go as hubs.

What we don't know is whether or not US had a legal obligation to retain a certain level of flights at PIT. (Use of the term "hub" probably doesn't apply as it is too nebulous and not a legal term.) Was such a number in some legal contract with the city or airport authority or whomever?

Other questions are how HP actually effected the acquisition of US. Was it an asset purchase? Under the bankruptcy did US have the right to terminate leases and agreements such as this?
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Old 11-01-2007, 04:33 PM   #7
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First, I continue to think the elimination of Pittsburgh as a secondary hub of US Air is a big mistake for the company, because US Air will loose a ton passengers to other airlines due to the lack of direct flights which was their sole advantage there.

Second, it is my understanding, leaving ethics out of the equation, that the bankruptcy judge basically threw out the PIT contract with US Air at US Air's request during the bankruptcy proceedings. I have no doubt that was part of the requirements for the merger/buy out, so that the combined company could reduce staff and the number of hubs in its system to save money. Too bad they didn't consider the income consequences of that decision, along with the cost consequences.

Third, if I was a Pittsburgh US Air frequent flier, I would probably drop them as my dominant airline, as their non-stop advantage has disappeared. Hell, even in PHL, while US Air remains my dominant frequent flier airline, I have defected to Continental for flights to Texas already, although I'm rethinking that switch due to the recent huge fare increases for EWR to Texas, compared to PHL to Texas. I've always been willing to spend more for a larger than ERJ plane, but the difference is getting extremely significant at this point.

Fourth, Lynn, I would dispute your comment, "They figure that if they have to change planes somewhere who cares whether it is Charlotte, Atlanta or Chicago? (any of them are better than Philadelphia!)" My experience in Atlanta and Chicago over the last two years is no better than PHL. I live in PHL, and am in Atlanta and Chicago often, making connections to other cities. Those airports are the pits. My experience in Charlotte with regard to being on-time is considerably better than the other three airports in your list. I also think there are definitely ways of flying darn close to on-time in Philadelphia, as most of my flights in and out of PHL are quite close to on-time.

Fifth, while I think that what Spector and Casey said was correct, their words and actions are much too little, much too late, and I believe was only done to win political points with the Allegheny County electorate.

Six, like Anita I have contacted other airlines about moving over to them instead of US Air. While I'm less likely to do so than Anita, because PHL continues to be US Air's second largest domestic and largest international hub, I have explored this due primarily to my unhappiness with the airline in its configuration of A319, A320 and A321 aircraft and its overuse of ERJ aircraft. It's lateness characteristics at PHL are primarily due to the FAA's dragging of it's feet in approving PHL's Runway and Facility Expansion Program, which would permit increasing the number of planes landing and taking off per hour, by almost 70%. With the plans still on hold, the City of Philadelphia is unable to finalize terminal renovation and expansion plans too. The FAA's indecisiveness and incompetence is killing us here at PHL.

When contacting two other airlines, they both told me they would be happy to have me join at my current elite level at US Air, in their program, and would start my account with the same 3/4 Million miles I have in my US Air account.
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Old 11-02-2007, 03:19 PM   #8
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Hi Ned,
I agree with what you've said. However, I really think that the state may impose some fines on US Airways regarding contract violations. But, like you said, a lot of it is political and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the state to do anything quickly.

Right now, today, there is absolutely no reason for me to stay in US Airways Dividend Miles program given the huge cutbacks in PIT. If I stay it will be because they are serious about improving things.

Funny you mention the ATC issues. On my flight home to PIT, I sat next to a US Airways dispatcher whose job is to work with ATC on cutting delays down. He says PHL is "the red headed step child" in between JFK, LGA, EWR, IAD, DCA and getting the FAA onboard for anything is like pulling teeth. Furthermore, he alluded to the fact that US Airways is in serious trouble with several EU countries because of chronic late flights from PHL -- they may lose their slots in these countries. He stated that Continental is in worse shape and has half-a-dozen EU countries are threatening taking their slots due to late flights from EWR. The "slot" (aka set times for flights coming and going to the US) issue is a big problem for ALL U.S. airlines. If flights are late inbound the EU has a fit; however, according to this gentlemen, we don't give the EU airlines a hard time when they are late here. He seems to think that the FAA ought to start doing tit for tat in giving the EU airlines a difficult time when they have issues. EU countries are quick to point fingers at US carriers. This is a huge political hot potato no one wants to deal with.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what US Airways does. I've heard via the grapevine all this may be a moot point -- seems a little merger with another larger airline is in the works...guess who...what a mess that will be!

Best
Anita
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Old 11-02-2007, 03:23 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter View Post
Hi Ned,
I agree with what you've said. However, I really think that the state may impose some fines on US Airways regarding contract violations.
How can a state impose fines? They can claim remedies which may be stated in the contract but I doubt there's any state which permits fines. Then again, as Ned reported, the contract has been nullified by the bankruptcy courts ... so tough noogies.
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Old 11-02-2007, 03:49 PM   #10
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You can certainly dispute my comment, Ned, but read it closely, it really is not mine. This is what I am being told by the travelers, and these fellas all travel well over the 100,000 miles per year on US plus a couple of them are fairly high with another carrier.

We have a couple of carriers courting them, now we're waiting for some dust to settle before they make a decision as to who they will choose.
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