US Airways, city say they are working out differences on airport expansion

A US Airways plane at Phila. International Airport. The airport’s dominant carrier and the Nutter administration issued a statement saying they’d work together on expansion plans. plan.a US Airways plane lands in front of the control tower Monda.y afternoon 3/13/00. DN Steven M. Falk
A US Airways plane at Phila. International Airport. The airport’s dominant carrier and the Nutter administration issued a statement saying they’d work together on expansion plans. plan.a US Airways plane lands in front of the control tower Monda.y afternoon 3/13/00. DN Steven M. Falk
Posted: March 20, 2012

US Airways and the Nutter administration, which have disagreed publicly about a proposed expansion of Philadelphia International Airport, made nice Monday with a joint statement about working to iron out their differences.

The airline, which is the dominant carrier at the airport, has objected to the costs it would bear for the expansion, while the city had threatened to impose new airport-use rates if US Airways did not agree to a new, 15-year airport lease by July.

Monday’s statement said recent talks between the two sides had been “very productive” and that “our paramount objective [is] to conclude an agreement on a long-term airport lease ….”

The city estimates the airport expansion project would cost $6.4 billion over 13 years. US Airways and other airlines at the airport estimate the cost at about $10.5 billion.

The airlines have also challenged the city’s claim that a new runway would significantly reduce air-traffic congestion and delays for passengers.

Monday’s joint statement acknowledged “there are issues that remain to be resolved,” but it highlighted the two sides’ willingness to work together on airport-improvement projects that both agree on.

“US Airways has reiterated its commitment to continue to serve the Philadelphia region, provided the cost of operating at PHL remains affordable, and to continue to support the development of the airport to improve efficiency and travelers’ experience,” the statement said.

For its part, the city said it recognized the value of having the major US Airways hub in Philadelphia and “wants US Airways, with 6,500 local employees, to continue to be one of the region’s largest employers and supporters of social and cultural causes.”

US Airways said last month in a regulatory filing that the costs of proposed expansion could force it to take some of its business to other airports.

The proposed expansion would add a fifth runway to the airport, shift the UPS airfreight operations hub to the western side of the airport, lengthen two existing runways, build a new commuter terminal, add a “people mover” train, add new airplane gates and a new ground-transportation hub for rental cars, and expand airport parking.

The work would create thousands of construction jobs over the life of the project, as well as new permanent jobs at the expanded airport.

The project is being challenged in court by Tinicum Township, which adjoins the airport and would lose 72 homes to the expansion.

Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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