US Airways to shut pilot base at LaGuardia

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US Airways plans to shut down the pilot base for its air shuttle at La Guardia Airport despite protests from the pilots union that such a move is “ill-conceived” and would jeopardize the airline’s service to Boston and Washington.

James Ray, a flight captain and spokesman for the Airline Pilots Association, said US Airways’ plan would mean that all personnel and jets assigned to US Airways’ air shuttle would be transferred to other cities.

Ray said in excess of 600 jobs would be moved out of New York City.

“US Air cannot guarantee the dependability of their shuttle service if they send such personnel and equipment to other cities,” Ray said of the US Airways plan, which is scheduled to take place starting Jan. 31.

Ray said adverse weather in Washington or Philadelphia could hinder US Airways’ attempts to bring crews and planes to LaGuardia Airport for shuttle flights.

“We also believe this is an ill-conceived plan that will cost the company more than it saves,” Ray said.

Morgan Durrant, a US Airways spokesman, said the changes were essential in the airline’s struggle to overcome its financial straits.

“US Airways lost $800,000 last year and this plan is part of our efforts to get into the black,” Durrant said. He denied the union’s claim that the shuttle service would be compromised.

“We are confident that we will still operate a reliable shuttle service,” he said.

The plan would also transfer shuttle planes and personnel out of Boston and Las Vegas.

Durrant said the number of jobs to be eliminated in the plan is not yet decided, but some published reports said papers that US Airways filed with the state Labor Department specified 261 jobs at La Guardia, although some employees would be offered transfers to other cities.

Ray said the pilots union estimated that the plan would mean the loss of the jobs of 91 pilots and 200 flight attendants along with 190 pilots and 90 flight attendants at Piedmont Airlines, a small, US Airways subsidiary that flies to smaller cities but would be affected by the plan.

US Airways plans to reduce the size of planes in its air shuttle, exchanging the present 124-seat Airbuses for 99-seat Embraer 190 regional jets, which use less fuel and require fewer crew members.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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