US Airways pilots approve concessions

By CHRIS H. SIEROTY  |  Aug. 9, 2002 at 12:04 AM
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ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 8 (UPI) -- US Airways Group Inc. pilots Thursday voted 76 percent in favor of giving of giving the company $465 million in concessions in exchange for a 20 percent stake in the financially troubled airline.

US Airways' Air Line Pilots Association told its members that 2,824 pilots voted to approve and 908 voted against the agreement. The agreement will be retroactive to July 1 and will run through 2008, the union said.

"The pilots' ratification of the US Airways -- ALPA Restructuring Agreement represents a tremendous sacrifice from all US Airways pilots," said Capt. Chris Beebe, chairman of the Master Executive Council of the US Airways unit of the Air Line Pilots Association.

Beebe said the positive vote also helps "our company through difficult times and to assist its long-term recovery."

The nation's seventh-largest U.S. carrier has said that it needs concessions from all its labor unions as well as suppliers and creditors to win final approval for a $900 million U.S. loan to guarantee to help it secure $1 billion loan and to avoid a bankruptcy filing.

Even if it gets the loan guarantee, US Airways has said it still may seek bankruptcy protection.

The Air Transportation Stabilization Board withheld final approval of the loan guarantee until the airline reduced labor costs and won concessions from its vendors and certain creditors to further stem red ink.

The airline is looking for about $1 billion a year in cost cuts. It lost $248 million in the second quarter.

When the agreement goes into effect, the Arlington, Va., -based airline has the option to lay off additional pilots and reduce the number of jets it flies at its main airline to 275 from 311, the union said.

The union represents about 4,800 active US Airways pilots and 1,070 who were laid off after the Sept. 11 attacks. About 86 percent of eligible members voted, the union said.

"This is one of a number of steps necessary to restructure out airline and return our company to profitability," David N. Siegel, US Airways president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

In New York, the airline met Thursday with some bondholders and reiterated its position that it has been pursuing a voluntary restructuring. However, the company denied media reports that it will most likely be able to complete the financial restructuring without a bankruptcy filing.

"Neither company representatives nor its advisors participating in today's meeting provided any such assurances," US Airways said in a statement issued late Thursday.

"As previously stated in communications to employees and in filings to the SEC, while the company has been pursuing a voluntary restructuring, is such voluntary efforts are not successful, a Chapter 11 filing would be required to obtain the necessary relief from stakeholders ... that are unwilling to work with US Airways on its voluntary restructuring," the airline said.

US Airways spokesman David Castelveter declined to comment on the meeting.

Shares of US Airways gained 5 cents, or 2.13 percent, to close Thursday at $2.40 on volume of 417,700 shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

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