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US Airways, pilots union promise friendlier skies

| Friday, June 18, 2004

US Airways Chief Executive Bruce Lakefield and pilots union leader Bill Pollock emerged from a three-hour meeting Thursday at Pittsburgh International Airport calling each other "partners" and saying they're "cautiously optimistic" about the troubled airline's survival.

More than 100 US Airways pilots gathered behind closed doors at the Hyatt Regency Hotel to hear Lakefield's pitch for why they should give up $295 million a year in pay, benefits and work rules. Pilots started negotiating June 1.

It was Lakefield's first appearance in Pittsburgh since becoming chief executive on April 19.

"The pilots are taking the lead on this," said Gary Clingan, 47, of Bethel Park, who has flown for US Airways. "But for the business plan to work, all employee groups have to participate."

Management hopes to have new contracts with various unions in place by the end of September, which would cut about $800 million a year, but only the pilots are in talks.

Pollock stopped short of endorsing the cost-cutting measures but was "confident" the Air Line Pilots Association "would put to the pilots a package that gets to the number that's necessary." Pollock is chairman of ALPA's Master Executive Council.

The airline employs more than 7,000 people locally, 750 of them pilots, and operates 379 daily flights. That's down from 512 flights and 11,700 workers three years ago. Lakefield would not say how those numbers would fall when US Airways shrinks Pittsburgh from a hub to a "focus city" this fall.

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