US Air spends $20M on baggage mess|
US Airways has spent $20 million over the last six months to improve baggage handling and to upgrade baggage facilities at Philadelphia International Airport, the airline's chief executive said yesterday. "And there will be more," said W. Douglas Parker, who also is US Airways chairman. He described the capital investment while meeting at the airport with regional chief executives. The upgrades occurred, he said, after US Airways merged with financially robust America West and reflects this airport's revenue significance to the airline. Parker said US Airways is fully staffed at Philadelphia International, which is the airline's biggest hub and gateway to European and Caribbean flights. Parker was here to meet for the first time with the CEO Council for Growth, a 52-member executives-only board within the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. A main agenda item was to release a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration requesting it to approve a plan to "offer the most relief of congestion" at Philadelphia International. In 2005, the airport was the ninth-busiest in the world in terms of takeoffs and landings, according to the Airports Council International trade group. But the airport ranked at the bottom for on-time departures and arrivals among the largest 33 U.S. airports. The CEO Council asked the FAA to adopt a new policy for directing traffic over Philadelphia's airspace. Specifically, it wants the FAA to transfer more routing power from New York to Philadelphia's control tower. This would permit Philadelphia to control its air-traffic flow and reduce delays in landings and departures. An FAA decision is expected at the end of the year. The requested routing changes would allow Philadelphia International to take advantage of an expanded runway. That project will begin this spring and conclude by the end of 2007. "This region will grow if the airport is successful," said Mark S. Schweiker, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the CEO Council. Parker's announcement of new spending for baggage handling addresses one of the main gripes of US Airways' travelers. Baggage service is a perennial sore point for US Airways travelers from Philadelphia. Checked luggage can take 60 minutes to appear on the carousel, defeating the satisfaction of an on-time arrival. Memories are still vivid of baggage lost for days during a service meltdown here at Christmas, 2004. Last Christmas, staffing had been increased and baggage claim was operated normally.