USAir and state aviation officials said yesterday that the airline will cut back some Baltimore flights in the next few months but that Baltimore-Washington International Airport will remain as one of USAir's hubs.
Patricia A. Goldman, USAir's senior vice president of corporate communications, said that the airline is taking a comprehensive look at its operations in order to find ways to reduce costs, but "that doesn't mean we're abandoning hubs."
Nicholas J. Schaus, deputy administrator at BWI, said that the airline has told state officials that it intends to cut flights in November and again in January. But those cuts would not threaten BWI's status as a hub, he said. "Absolutely not, there's not a change in the hub," he said.
USAir now has 127 jet departures from BWI daily. Jay Hierholzer, BWI's head of marketing, said the airport's net loss of USAir flights in November will be four. In January, an additional 10 flights will be lost. That would represent a total loss of 11 percent of USAir's current jet flights from BWI.
While the loss of flights is significant, BWI will remain an important hub for USAir, Mr. Schaus said. BWI was a critical part of the Piedmont Airlines system before Piedmont merged with USAir Group Inc. in 1989, and USAir officials assured the state following the merger that BWI remained a key element in the system. "Nothing from the top management suggests that relationship has changed," Mr. Schaus said.
On Thursday, USAir's vice president of investor relations, Juliette C Heintze, spoke to analysts in Richmond, Va. She was reported to have said at that conference that the airline, which is based in Arlington, Va., was considering eliminating one or more of its U.S. hubs as part of a restructuring.
Ms. Goldman said yesterday that while Ms. Heintze did say USAir was taking a close look at its hubs, she did not say that the airline wanted to shut down any of its hubs. "We're certainly not contemplating anything like that at present," she said. "There's no current plan to change Baltimore's status as a hub. That doesn't mean you're not going to see a change in the number of flights."
Vivian Lee, an analyst for Merrill Lynch in New York, said that the opinion on Wall Street has been that USAir has too many hubs. "The biggest criticism from the Street has been they need to drop a hub or two," she said. But, she continued, "just because they've been criticized by the Street doesn't mean they have to do it."
USAir lost $454 million and has projected a loss of about $500 million for this year. The company has said it will continue to cut costs and restructure operations as it tries to return to profitability.
The company has scheduled meetings with its employees around the country to explain a cost-cutting program, which it hopes will save the company millions of dollars next year.
Meetings with the company's Baltimore employees are scheduled at BWI Monday.