Carrier to pull some in-flight movies

The Baltimore Sun

US Airways Group Inc. said yesterday that it would remove in-flight movie systems from its domestic aircraft to save about $10 million a year in fuel and other costs.

The carrier decided to pull the entertainment systems because the number of people paying $5 for headsets has dropped as money spent on jet fuel, maintenance and studio fees has climbed. The video systems add about 500 pounds to a plane's weight, increasing fuel use.

"When you combine dramatically increasing expense with dramatically decreasing revenue, that is a bad recipe and we simply can't afford to do it anymore," Travis Christ, US Airways vice president for sales and marketing, said.

The systems will be turned off Nov. 1 and removed from the Airbus SAS A320-family aircraft as the planes undergo other maintenance, the Tempe, Ariz.-based carrier said. The aircraft are used to fly within the United States and to Mexico and the Caribbean. Movies are shown only on flights of at least 21/2 hours.

US Airways also is retiring jets, cutting domestic seating capacity by as much as 8 percent by the end of this year and eliminating 1,700 jobs to lower operating costs and reduce fuel use. It also will charge $2 for soda and other non-alcoholic drinks, $15 to check one bag and $25 for a second.

The number of passengers paying for airline headsets to hear the movies "has gone off a cliff" because they either bring their own, or they opt to listen to or watch their own personal electronic devices, Christ said.

US Airways had hoped to replace the existing systems with lightweight, individual devices, and will test a fiber-optic system on one plane in October. An 85 percent jump in the price of jet fuel in the past year has changed those plans, Christ said. New Airbus planes delivered to US Airways won't have any entertainment systems.

"What was economical 18 months ago is not economical today," he said. "The things we were looking at for tomorrow, in general, have had to be put on hold."

US Airways' 196 Airbus A319s, A320s and A321s make up 54 percent of its main jet fleet. About 80 older Boeing 737 jets used on domestic flights never had onboard movie systems. Entertainment systems will remain on the airline's larger planes used for trans-Atlantic flights.

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