America West Airlines Inc., the once-promising carrier now struggling through bankruptcy, will early next year move a 300-job reservation center from Maryland to Kansas City, Mo.
The airline says it will save $1 million a year by moving the $H center, which it opened two years ago in Hanover near the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The company plans to lease property and equipment that Kansas City acquired at fire-sale prices from the bankrupt Braniff Airlines.
"The decision to make this move is strictly a result of the financial advantages it provides America West," says airline president Michael J. Conway. The company will offer transfers to Kansas City for any Maryland workers able to move.
"This was a total surprise to us. We're very disappointed," says Carol Fox King, a spokeswoman for Maryland's Department of )) Economic and Employment Development.
The airline has no plans to reduce its passenger service at BWI, says Mike Mitchell, a spokesman for the airline.
Until recently, America West was one of the few successful airlines that had been spawned by industry deregulation a decade ago. It began service to BWI in 1987 as part of the !B Phoenix-based airline's expansion from the Southwest.
After struggling through a slump in the travel industry, America West filed in June for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Act. Earlier this week, America West gained court approval on a $155 million re-financing package and a joint marketing alliance with Northwest Airlines.
The airline will retain reservation centers at Phoenix; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Reno, Nev.
America West reached Kansas City officials a few months ago when the city was negotiating to buy a building and equipment from Braniff, then in bankruptcy proceedings. The city initially had intended to move its aviation department to the building, situated at the Kansas City International Airport, says John Solomon, director of aviation for Kansas City. "They [America West] had heard through the grapevine that we were acquiring the property and asked if we would be interested."