BWI's USAir staff wants to see the boss Fearing more cuts, workers ask to meet with Stephen Wolf

August 15, 1996|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

Fearful about further cutbacks at BWI, USAir Group Inc. workers here have asked the airline's top executive, Stephen Wolf, to meet with them to discuss concerns that the airport could lose its status as a USAir hub.

"We've heard there might be more cutbacks in September to make the airline more profitable," said Tracey Kelly, a ticket counter agent for the past 14 years. "We feel that they've made decisions to scale back here, but we'll be the last ones to find out anything."

Many of the 300 ticket counter and gate agents recently sent Wolf postcards asking him to meet with USAir employees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Not long after Wolf, the former chairman of UAL Corp., the parent of United Airlines, took the top job at USAir this spring, he visited BWI and other hubs to discuss the airline's future.

But USAir workers here complained that the relatively small room where the meeting was held was crowded with USAir employees who came from other airports. "Seventy percent of us didn't get in," Kelly said.

The postcard campaign to Wolf by the workers is being spearheaded by the Communication Workers of America, one of two unions trying to organize the agents who comprise the single largest group of non-unionized workers at USAir.

In addition, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is involved in a similar effort.

Two years ago, the teamsters and the United Steelworkers of America failed in an attempt to organize those airline workers.

Since becoming chairman and chief executive officer of USAir in April, Wolf has repeatedly said that the airline, which has the highest costs in the airline industry, must make drastic cuts to survive. He also has said that it must grow, either by being acquired or merging.

According to most analysts, the Arlington, Va.-based carrier long has operated too many expensive hubs, clustered too close together on the East Coast. Last year, USAir cut 7 percent of its daily flights at BWI as part of a systemwide effort to scrap unprofitable flights and divert planes to more lucrative areas.

In June, it cut more flights at BWI and shifted its service there more heavily toward the less popular commuter flights.

It now operates 95 commuter planes and 89 jets.

Overall, since 1990, USAir has trimmed its daily flights at BWI by 25 percent, from 249 to 185, fueling some speculation that USAir might abandon the stepchild hub the carrier inherited in its 1989 merger with Piedmont Airlines.

At the same time it has been downsizing at BWI, USAir has built its presence at Philadelphia International Airport and at Washington-Dulles International Airport where it operated only a handful of flights until the past year and a half.

USAir workers here say they've seen a shift toward more BTC part-time employees at the airport. And they fear that further reduction in flights, or the greater use of commuter planes, will result in a loss of jobs.

"We know the company has to cut back to save money, but we feel Baltimore is a vital area with plenty of businessmen flying in," said Kelly.

Richard M. Weintraub, a spokesman for USAir, said he does not know if Wolf will meet with the employees. But he said USAir currently anticipates no changes at BWI.

"For the foreseeable future, there are no major changes in the level of service at BWI," he said.

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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