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Strike Looms at US Airways

March 22, 2000

SPRINGFIELD, Va. (AP) _ Some travel agents have stopped booking tickets on US Airways for this weekend because of the airline’s threat to shut down if flight attendants strike on certain routes.

``Until the situation clears up, I’m not booking US Airways,″ said Malal Nezam, manager of Advance Travel in Fairfax.

Customers of Alpha Travel Network in Fairfax are being told it’s a bad idea to book flights on US Airways this weekend, although the agency has continued to sell tickets for flights in later weeks, manager Mazen Kassem said.

Negotiators for the nation’s sixth-largest airline and the Association of Flight Attendants met again Tuesday, hoping to reach an agreement before the strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. EST Saturday. That deadline follows a 30-day cooling-off period called for by the federal National Mediation Board, which oversees labor talks in the transportation industry.

The airline is telling passengers to call the US Airways reservations hot line or their travel agents if they have questions about their travel. US Airways Express flights would not be affected by a strike or shutdown because its employees are governed by different contracts.

Amtrak announced Tuesday it would add more cars to routes in the Northeast if the airline shut down and also would honor US Airways tickets.

However, Amtrak said it would accept only paper tickets, not so-called e-tickets. Airlines also generally do not honor each other’s e-tickets because their computer systems are not linked.

US Airways serves destinations in 38 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The flight attendants’ union has said it would target random routes with impromptu walkouts, a strategy the union calls CHAOS, or Create Havoc Around Our System. In response, the airline has said it would shut down rather than subject passengers to unpredictable travel.

About 10,000 flight attendants have been working under a contract that expired in 1996. They have not had a raise since then and on average, receive about $36,000 a year, officials said. They are also looking to improve their retirement benefits, work schedules and job protection clauses.

The airline, based in Arlington, is proposing a pay-and-benefits formula based on what its biggest competitors offer, plus 1 percent. The flight attendants argue that management has not clearly spelled out how the formula would affect their pay and fear it could result in erosion of some benefits.

US Airways spokesman Richard Weintraub declined to say if the airline had seen ticket sales drop for this weekend.

Union spokesman Jeff Zack said US Airways’ decision to shut down rather than face random strikes would harm many passengers unnecessarily. He said US Airways regularly cancels flights anyway because of weather or other unforeseen problems.

``The decision to shut down is rash,″ Zack said.

___

On the Net: Association of Flight Attendants: http://www.afausairways.org

US Airways: http://www.usairways.com

Amtrak: http://www.amtrak.com

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