US Airways reaffirms Phila. hub's importance

A US Airways service agent scans a bag in Phila. The airline held its 13th annual media day on Wednesday. US AIRWAYS
A US Airways service agent scans a bag in Phila. The airline held its 13th annual media day on Wednesday. US AIRWAYS
Posted: April 26, 2013

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - US Airways Group reiterated Wednesday the importance of Philadelphia as a hub airport in the coming merger with American Airlines.

Speaking at its 13th annual media day, where executives mingled with reporters to talk about the merger and put a best foot forward on what will be the world's biggest airline, US Airways president Scott Kirby said New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, from which American does a lot of international flying, "is a great point-to-point market" for local fliers traveling between New York and destinations such as London's Heathrow Airport.

"But JFK is not a 500-flight-a-day connecting hub, so you can't feed customers from the entire interior of the continent the best. Philadelphia is very complementary to JFK. It can feed customers from 50 to 60 destinations across the entire U.S.," Kirby told an audience at the Talking Stick Resort, a hotel and casino.

"I often get the question, 'What's going to happen between JFK and Philadelphia? They are 110 miles apart, and aren't those too close together?' " Kirby said.

"The reality is, as I've just described, they serve two completely different markets, and they are complementary to each other. JFK is a market that is mostly about serving people going to and from New York. Philadelphia is a hub that's about serving customers going to and from Philadelphia, but also about funneling customers from the 60 or so destinations in the interior of the United States on to Europe. And it's the reason that US Airways can successfully serve secondary destinations, because we can funnel customers from the 60 or so destinations."

US Airways and American say their networks, too, mesh well: US Airways is strong in secondary cities, large and small, across the United States. "American is strong in these really big business markets," Kirby said.

In a question-and-answer session, he confirmed that US Airways had raised its ticket-change fees from $150 to $200, and from $250 to $300 on flights to South America. That makes US Airways the second airline to do so - United did last week.

"We did raise the change fee last night," Kirby said. "The whys and how we do it are the kind of things we are not supposed to talk about because of pricing."

US Airways CEO Doug Parker noted this would be the airline's last media "unplugged" event near its Phoenix headquarters - this time next year, the newly combined American Airlines will be based in Fort Worth, Texas.

The daylong event began with an infomercial-type video - "Welcome to the new American," complete with pulsating music, glitzy photos, and interviews with employees - designed to build excitement for the new airline, which will offer 6,700 daily flights and have 100,000 employees, 1,500 aircraft, and $39 billion in annual revenue, rivaling United and Delta Air Lines in size.

On hand for the day as well were representatives of the pilots' and flight attendants' unions from both US Airways and American. The flight crews and the Transport Workers Union, representing fleet workers, supported the merger because a rising tide in salaries will float all boats.

American's pilots and flight attendants were won over in April 2012 by Parker and his team, who ponied up a better financial deal than the former American management was offering in bankruptcy restructuring.

US Airways' pilots and flight attendants had been working at pre-2004 salaries because of disagreements over combining seniority lists after the 2005 merger with America West. Now they will earn what their counterparts at American earn, which will be on par with the pay of flight crews at United and Delta.

On Wednesday, US Airways announced that starting May 1 passengers traveling in the coach cabin will get complimentary headsets and a glass of wine with regular free meals on international flights to Europe, the Middle East, and South America.

For $21.99, economy-class passengers can buy a fancy "Dine Fresh" meal on trans-Atlantic flights from Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C. With the upgraded meal, which must be ordered 24 hours in advance, passengers will get small bottles of wine.

In May, US Airways will resume spring and summer seasonal service to Athens, Barcelona, Glasgow, Lisbon, Shannon, and Venice from Philadelphia, said Andrew Nocella, the airline's senior vice president of marketing and planning.

Additional seasonal frequency will be added to Frankfurt from Philadelphia and Charlotte.


Contact Linda Loyd

at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.

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