US Airways is further reducing its role at BWI

Airline to cut 10 more daily departures from site

August 31, 2002|By Paul Adams | Paul Adams,SUN STAFF

US Airways will eliminate another 10 daily departures from its flying schedule at Baltimore-Washington International Airport as part of a plan to reduce capacity by 13 percent throughout its system before year's end, the carrier revealed yesterday.

The latest round of cuts is a response to lower demand for air travel and will leave the Arlington, Va.-based airline with 200 fewer large jet flights and about 100 fewer US Airways Express commuter flights per day. The nation's seventh-largest airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Aug. 11 and is struggling to reduce costs and eliminate unprofitable routes from its system.

The cutbacks have hit BWI especially hard, reducing US Airway's daily jet flights by about 80 percent since the Sept. 11 attacks. The carrier eliminated its entire Baltimore-based MetroJet division in December. Combined with the latest cuts, the airline will have just 15 large jet flights daily at BWI, down from about 75 prior to Sept. 11. Another 29 daily turboprop and small regional jet flights will be operated by US Airways Express carriers, down from more than 70 a year ago.

BWI officials said US Airways' restructuring hasn't significantly eroded passenger service at the airport, which is undergoing a $1.8 billion expansion. New entrant AirTran Airways and Southwest Airlines, the airport's dominant carrier, have picked up many of the routes formerly flown by MetroJet, which was launched in 1998 as US Airways' low-budget "airline within an airline."

"You never want to see an airline cut service or reduce service, but the position we are currently in is that whatever space we have available is allocated," said John White, a BWI spokesman.

The flight reductions mean US Airways will no longer fly from BWI to Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Rochester, N.Y., or Charleston, W.Va. However, BWI will gain two flights to New York's LaGuardia Airport for a total of nine per day.

The new schedule, which will be phased in by Nov. 2, displays US Airways' new focus on feeding traffic to its hubs in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C., while phasing out flights to Florida and other places that are heavily served by low-fare airlines. The carrier also continues to expand its operations in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Analysts mostly praised the moves, saying US Airways has been burdened with more capacity than it can support profitably.

"These guys will be coming back as a world-class carrier, but they're still not going to be competitive with the low-budget carriers on point-to-point flying," said Ray Neidl, an airline analyst with Blaylock and Partners LP. "They have to build on the strength of their hubs."

James Corridore, an analyst with Standard & Poor's, said US Airways was flying more seats than it could afford. The latest cuts will help, he said.

"They're flying to a lot of markets that they can't make money on," he said.

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