By Thomas Olson
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Two weeks after US Airways and American Airlines announced plans to merge, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey urged the carriers not to cut jobs or air service in Pennsylvania.
Casey, a Democrat from Scranton, released a letter on Wednesday that he wrote to American CEO Thomas Horton and US Airways CEO Doug Parker asking them to “maintain” the air carriers' combined 1,900 jobs in Southwest Pennsylvania. US Airways accounts for 1,820 of those positions.
The senator asked the carriers to extend US Airways' maintenance hangar lease at Pittsburgh International Airport beyond its expiration in 2015 to reassure workers who might be worried about losing their jobs.
Casey urged the airlines not to cut flights serving Pennsylvania markets and to consider adding flights from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
“I ask that you consider preserving overlapping routes that are currently served by both carriers to avoid reduction in air service levels, particularly into the New York market,” Casey's letter read.
In response to Casey's letter, US Airways spokesman Andrew Christie wrote in an email that the merged carriers “will offer improved service” through 558 daily departures from eight Pennsylvania cities. He did not specifically address plans for New York service or for aircraft maintenance facilities, saying such details are “premature to discuss.”
The long-expected merger, announced Feb. 14, will create the world's largest airline by combining fifth-largest US Airways with third-largest American, which first must exit bankruptcy. Annual revenue would top $40 billion.
US Airways' Parker, who would become chief executive of the merged carrier, said there would not be “any major layoffs” from combining the two airlines. They expect to cut combined costs by about $150 million but have not detailed those savings.
The new American Airlines would operate more than 6,700 daily flights to 336 destinations in 56 countries.
Still the dominant airline at Pittsburgh International, US Airways operates 42 daily flights from Pittsburgh, including service to New York's LaGuardia Airport. American operates 13 a day, including service to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
US Airways employs more than 600 mechanics and related maintenance workers at Pittsburgh International, Another 600 work at the airline's flight operations control center in Moon, which coordinates the carrier's more than 3,000 daily flights systemwide.
“Preserving jobs at the maintenance facility, operations control center and Pittsburgh International Airport is of the utmost importance for the regional economy,” wrote Casey.
US Airways and American cannot combine their operations until after their merger deal is completed, which they anticipate will occur sometime in the July-October quarter. Then the two carriers would take well over a year to integrate their operations into one airline.
Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.