News Article - June 1, 2007

US Airways’ flights from Phila. to Brussels start today  
  US Airways plans to start service between Philadelphia International Airport and Brussels, Belgium, today, one of three new nonstop flights it is adding this summer to cities across Europe. The new flights come at a time US Airways and the airport have increased their staffing in an effort to help the airline improve on its ragged performance last summer and this spring.

   US Airways launched flights to Athens, Greece, on May 25, and will start service to Zurich, Switzerland, Friday, bringing to 19 the number of European destinations it will serve from its Philadelphia hub through early fall. The flights between Philadelphia and Athens will be the longest nonstops the airline has ever operated, scheduled for almost 10 hours eastbound, and 11 hours, 15 minutes, returning, spokesman Philip Gee said.

   Other seasonal flights resumed in May to five cities: Barcelona, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Shannon, Ireland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Venice, Italy. Service to Glasgow, Scotland, is to start June 9. US Airways flies to the 10 other cities year round, as do the three European carriers here: Air France to Paris, British Airways to London, and Lufthansa to Frankfurt.

   US Airways, the airport's dominant airline with more than 60 percent of the passengers, has added hundreds of baggage handlers and customer-service agents to its 6,100-person workforce here, said Tony Grantham, managing director of the Philadelphia hub. "We're in a hiring blitz right now," he said.

   Grantham and city Aviation Director Charles J. Isdell both expressed concern that the Transportation Security Administration and the Customs and Border Protection Service will have adequate personnel working this summer to handle the number of passengers expected. Isdell said the agencies were ready to use overtime for employees to make sure people are processed efficiently. US Airways ran into massive problems with baggage service last summer because of a shortage of workers and dilapidated equipment. Airline officials have said the carrier has spent more than $20 million over the last 18 months or so upgrading the baggage-handling equipment and its other airport facilities.

   Because of the additional destinations this year, US Airways will have to use some of its gates in the A-West international terminal for more than one European flight a day. After passengers from a flight disembark, the airline will park the jet away from the terminal so another plane can move in and take on a load of outbound passengers, the officials said. If a departing flight is delayed at a gate by weather or other problems, the airport is prepared to offer US Airways the use of what it calls "passenger transport vehicles" to unload people on an inbound flight a few hundred yards away from the terminal, Isdell said. The six vehicles are oversized, high-level buses that have a door in the front, at the same height as an airplane door, and can transport as many as 125 passengers at a time, he said. US Airways uses its three largest jet models for European flights. Its Boeing 757s hold 190 passengers, Boeing 767s carry 203, and Airbus A330s hold 266.

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer