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News Article - February 29, 2008

US Airways Wants to Increase Philadelphia Gates  
  TEMPE, Ariz. - US Airways said yesterday that it intended, over the next five years, to double its number of international gates at Philadelphia International Airport and to create a "satellite corporate headquarters" in Philadelphia. The airline, which is based in Arizona, has hired about 200 additional employees in Philadelphia, its main international hub, and it expects to spend about $30 million this year to upgrade equipment and facilities at the airport, officials said at an annual day of briefings for reporters. The improvements could not come too soon.

   For the first time, US Airways Group Inc. acknowledged that over the last two years, it had lost or damaged more than four times as many passengers' bags in Philadelphia as it had in the rest of its system. But it hastened to add that at the Philadelphia airport and across its network, the trend for keeping up with passengers' luggage and for on-time performance has been steadily improving, company officials said.

   "We haven't done a very good job of providing an on-time product in Philadelphia, but our trend line is good," said Suzanne Boda, the airline's new senior vice president, based at Philadelphia International Airport to oversee the East Coast. Douglas Parker, US Airways' chief executive officer, added that the airline realized after running a poor operation last year that it needed a satellite headquarters, with senior managers based in Philadelphia "who don't need to wait for Phoenix to wake up" before making decisions.

   Parker also said he believed that mergers among the nation's largest airlines were a necessity for the industry's long-term prosperity. But, he said, the airline knows it needs to concentrate now on improving its in-flight service and operational performance to continue its recent financial success. Boda said US Airways would be able to operate a full schedule of European flights this summer with the gates it has in Terminals A-East and A-West.

   But it needs three to six more gates by the summer of 2009. By 2012, Boda said, the airline wants to see the terminals expanded with up to 16 additional gates, almost 100 percent more than it has now. President Scott Kirby said the airline had done a poor job of working with officials at the city-owned airport, where US Airways has 69 percent of the flights and carries 61 percent of the passengers. But that is changing. "We have to make Philadelphia work for the airline to do well," Kirby said.

   US Airways' unionized employees used the day, with more 50 media representatives gathered at its headquarters in this Phoenix suburb, to walk an informational picket line to protest their frustration with management on a range of issues. Their main complaint is the lack of progress in negotiating contracts that merge the workforces of the old US Airways and America West Airlines, which combined most operations in September 2005.

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer



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