Pilot Deal Spells Relief for US Air

 - October 8, 2007, 6:01 AM

Under pressure to help their employer meet financing conditions set by regional jet lessor GECAS, the pilots of US Airways voted to ratify a new agreement that will allow the troubled airline to transfer delivery positions for Embraer 170s and Bombardier CRJs from wholly owned subsidiaries to independent US Airways Express carriers. Only 74.1 percent of the eligible active pilots cast ballots. Of the 2,370 pilots who voted, 76 percent agreed to the plan, known as LOA 91.

During a series of so-called road shows in April, members of the US Airways ALPA master executive council told pilots that the agreement posed no risk to their jobs, stressing that the LOA does not change the contractually binding floor of 279 mainline airplanes. However, because US Airways’ “Jets for Jobs” agreement guarantees only half of any new RJ jobs at the affiliated carriers, they stand to lose future positions at Mid-Atlantic Airways, where all new RJ seats must go to mainline pilots.

The ratification grew more vital last month when Standard & Poor’s lowered US Airways’ credit rating from a B- to a CCC+. Under the terms of the lease deal covering 30 Embraer 170s and 36 Bombardier CRJs, GECAS could withdraw its financing once the airline’s credit rating dropped below B-. GECAS president Henry Hubschman joined negotiating-committee conference calls on April 8 to reinforce threats to pull its funding if the pilots did not sign the new deal. A day later US Airways’ pilots replaced the chairman and vice chairman of their 12-member bargaining team.