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Airport officials: Possible US Airways-American merger could cost jobs at Pittsburgh International

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 12:51 p.m.
Bloomberg
An Airbus A319 (left), operated by US Airways Group Inc., taxis after landing behind a Boeing Co. 737, operated by AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. If the two airlines merge, job duplication at Pittsburgh International Airport could lead to job losses, officials fear.

Allegheny County Airport Authority officials are working to prevent the loss of hundreds of jobs at Pittsburgh International, authority board members said Friday — an effort important enough to slow their search for a CEO.

Board Treasurer Dennis Davin said officials want to focus on preserving jobs should a US Airways-American Airlines merger goes through, and on the $500 million natural-gas drilling deal they recently inked with Cecil-based Consol Energy Inc.

“We want to get through these next few months first,” Davin said.

Davin, the county's Department of Economic Development director, said authority and local government leaders plan to appeal to airline officials to preserve about 1,200 jobs at US Airways' flight operations center in Moon and at the maintenance base at Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay.

The jobs represent about two-thirds of US Airways' remaining workforce in Pittsburgh, where the airline once employed 12,000.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, recently wrote to executives at American Airlines and US Airways. He said preserving jobs “is of the utmost importance for the regional economy.”

The senator asked the airlines to extend US Airways' maintenance-hangar lease in Pittsburgh beyond 2015.

If the merger with American Airlines goes through, the combined carrier would have two flight-operations centers and two maintenance bases, Davin said, including ones that American operates elsewhere.

One aim of the merger is to reduce costs. Airline officials have said they hope to slash $150 million in expenses, but they haven't provided details.

American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said it is too soon to discuss how a merger might affect Pittsburgh. A merger could close by this year's third quarter, he said.

A US Airways spokesman did not return calls.

Davin said authority officials haven't been told the airlines would scrap jobs, but added: “We're trying to get ahead of this.”

In the interim, former authority CEO Brad Penrod will remain the agency's top executive. The board reassigned him as president and chief strategy officer last month during a leadership shake-up.

Penrod did not return a call.

Board member Robert Lewis, who is heading the CEO search, said he expects the hiring process to take 12 to 18 months.

“We want someone in there who wakes up every morning wanting to bring new flights to the airport,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who appoints authority board members and has taken an active role in airport business.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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