US Airways Details Plans to Become Low-Cost Carrier

Bankrupt US Airways (UAIR) detailed plans on Monday for becoming a low-cost carrier, saying it will overhaul its flight schedule and sharply boost aircraft turnaround times beginning in February.

With steep court-imposed labor cost cuts assured and a fixed amount of cash from loans accessible through mid-January, the seventh-largest domestic airline will try to weather the slowest period of the year before proceeding with an unprecedented transformation ahead of spring travel.

"By changing our core business model, US Airways (search) will be better positioned to successfully compete in an aggressive competitive environment where declines in yields, growth of other low cost carriers, and record high fuel prices are expected," said Ben Baldanza, the company's senior vice president of marketing and planning.

The changes take effect on Feb. 6, 2005, and also affect service offered by US Airways' regional partners.

US Airways plans to boost capacity and add 230 daily flights without new aircraft. It also wants to reduce aircraft turnaround times by 15 percent to more efficiently use its fleet of 281 mainline planes and 169 regional jets.

The company will, in some cases, fly bigger planes in place of regional jets and regional jets in place of smaller turboprops, which are being phased out.

"We'll be on the ground less and in the air more," said Jack Stephan, a spokesman for the airline's pilots' union. "We'll see more planes coming in and leaving quickly."

Stephan said the changes, as announced, should not impact pilot schedules other than shorter layovers.

On Friday, a bankruptcy judge in Virginia approved the company's plan for sweeping wage and other cuts on all union workers to help the carrier save more than $30 million per month. The austerity measures also permit the company to make flight attendants and pilots work more hours.

The airline's overarching survival strategy centers around expanded point-to-point flying - like low-cost rivals - more business destinations, expanded service to Latin America and the Caribbean, and heavier use of hubs in Philadelphia and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Flights at US Airways' Pittsburgh hub will drop by roughly a third, as previously announced.

Departures from Philadelphia will increase to 495 each business day, or 7 percent more than the November 2004 schedule. Charlotte, US Airways' largest hub, will grow to 564 daily weekday departures from 495 currently.

Nonstop service from Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport (search) will include six new business destinations, including Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago O'Hare.