US Airways earned $206 million in 2nd quarter Planes carrying record numbers of passengers; Airlines

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Amid signs of progress in its long stalled negotiations with pilots, US Airways Group Inc. yesterday reported more good news -- a $206.5 million profit for the second quarter as the airline continued to cram record numbers of passengers on its planes.

The latest financial results prompted US Airways Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stephen M. Wolf to praise the efforts of the airline's employees. He said their cooperative spirit, combined with the company's recent parity offer to its 4,000 pilots, should speed US Airways' efforts to reach a contract with the pilots and provide a basis for cost-cutting agreements with other workers.

Last week, the Arlington, Va.-based carrier offered its pilots, the highest-paid in the industry, a written guarantee to expand the airline at a rate comparable to its major competitors in exchange for wage cuts and other concessions. In a letter to the pilots' negotiating committee, US Airways promised to match for seven years the salary, benefits and flying hours of the average of American, Delta, United and Northwest.

Under the proposal, US Airways also would be allowed to set up a low-cost operation with pilots compensated on a par with those at Southwest and Delta Express. The airline suggested that the two sides select an independent accounting firm to determine what parity is and how to achieve it.

"We think it is a giant step forward," Mike Oakey, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association of US Airways, said yesterday. "Basically, the pilots association just needs to have the negotiating committee work on the details and hopefully get on with keeping this company a profitable company."

For the quarter ended June 30, the airline's net income of $205.6 million was up 2.4 percent over the $200.8 million for the second quarter of 1996. Operating revenues of $2.2 billion increased 2.9 percent over the $2.1 billion of the year-earlier period.

Significantly, the passenger load factor -- the percentage of paying passengers on a flight -- was 73.7 percent, an increase of 2.6 percent in the second quarter.

US Airways has threatened to downsize the carrier to a regional airline if it fails to reach cost-cutting agreements with its pilots that would allow it to restructure to better compete with low-cost carriers like Southwest.

"At least now they're coming across saying we want to grow and we will make guarantees," Oakey said. But Oakey gave no indication about how much longer it could take to reach a final agreement. Meanwhile, the airline is two months away from a deadline to affirm its order with Airbus Industrie for 400 new aircraft. The $14 billion deal, however, is contingent on reaching an agreement with the pilots.

US Airways stock fell 75 cents to $38.125 yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Pub Date: 7/24/97

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