Local News

US Airways' Baggage Problems May Mean Loss Of Jobs, Choice In N.C.

Posted December 28, 2004

— US Airways is in trouble after thousands of pieces of luggage were lost during the holiday weekend. The baggage mess could not come at a worse time for US Airways. The airline is trying to emerge from bankruptcy for a second time. If it cannot, it could mean a loss of jobs and choice in North Carolina.

"They're not even apologizing for this situation. A simple, 'I'm sorry that you have to deal with this. We are doing the best we can' would work wonders, but they are not giving any apologies or any news as to when it's going to let up," said Barbara Thetford, who lost luggage.

The unexpected shortage of baggage handlers in Philadelphia led to luggage chaos across the country. For an airline trying to emerge from bankruptcy, this is not good timing.

"Their image is going to be damaged by what occurred. But in the long-term, the chances are pretty good that they will survive," said airline industry expert Eddie Albertson.

The airline has a hub in Charlotte and is the only carrier in some North Carolina cities. Albertson said losing US Airways would have a significant impact across the state.

"If that happens, there are no winners, particularly in North Carolina, US Airways still employs several thousand people. I don't know the exact count, but it is something like 4,000 or 5,000 employees, and they are well-paid employees," Albertson said.

Commuter carriers at RDU could also take a hit. Chautauqua, Piedmont, Mesa, PSA and Trans States all partner with US Airways. The company has bounced back from bankruptcy before and hopes to do so again in the spring.

Other airlines have been through financial hardships before and RDU officials said they are used to taking those kinds of situations one day at a time.

"Right now, we're looking at where we are today and that is US Airways is in bankruptcy, but they are looking to emerge from bankruptcy. We'll cross those other bridges when we come to them," RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said.

RDU has a plan for dealing with airlines in bankruptcy, so that it does not get stuck with an unpaid bill. US Airways pays its bills two weeks in advance. Other than the baggage problems, things are looking good for the company. It has agreements with most of its unions to move forward with reorganization.

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