USAir passenger volume affected by Sept. crash

November 08, 1994|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Sun Staff Writer

USAir Group Inc. reported yesterday that the growth of passenger volume slowed in October, stemming from passenger reaction to the crash of Flight 427 outside Pittsburgh in September.

The Arlington, Va.-based carrier said it carried 5.05 million passengers last month compared with 4.92 million in October 1993, representing a 2.7 percent increase.

By comparison, the number of USAir passengers grew 7.8 percent in September and 14.5 percent in August over the comparable months in 1993 as low fares lured an increasing number of travelers.

The growth in revenue passenger miles -- a key industry measure representing the number of miles flown by paying passengers -- slowed to 2.3 percent in October, compared with a 4.9 percent increase in September and 10.8 percent in August.

"The rate of growth is far less" for October, USAir spokesman Richard Weintraub said yesterday. "We had been seeing consistently 4 to 6 percent increases."

But Mr. Weintraub said the initial effect of the crash on bookings was not a surprise. "If you look at the industry, traditionally anytime there is an accident, there's a certain period of time over which bookings are affected," he said.

While there was no indication how long the crash would depress the number of passengers, Mr. Weintraub said advance bookings for January flights look about normal.

Despite the slowed growth in October, the overall number of passengers has grown 12.4 percent for the first 10 months of the year, the airline said yesterday.

The crash, however, took a heavy toll on the airline's third-quarter earnings, with airline officials attributing as much as $40 million of the $180.1 million losses to the Pittsburgh disaster.

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation of the Sept. 8 Pittsburgh crash, which killed 132 people, as well as USAir's July 2 accident in Charlotte, N.C., which killed 37.

Elsewhere in the airline industry, low fares continued to boost the growth in the number of passengers.

Southwest Airlines announced that it flew 9.1 percent more passengers in October compared with a year ago and that it saw a 9.5 percent increase in revenue passenger miles for the same period. The Dallas-based carrier said its passengers for the first 10 months of 1994 had increased nearly 17 percent.

Delta reported that its revenue passenger miles increased 2 percent from the same month a year earlier. United Airlines reported a 10.7 percent increase.

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