Tempers in Tempe as US Airways labour plans Media Day picketing

It’s the eve of US Airways’ annual media day. The carrier’s public relations team is hard at work organizing a “salsa challenge” tonight for journalists (think of a room full of rival publications, lots of onions and knives). I wonder if there will be any tears. Quite seriously, though, I must applaud US Airways for hosting Media Day every year. No other major US legacy annually invites press to its headquarters for a day of hard-hitting questions. In light of the challenges faced by US Airways over the last year, it is very brave of them to make their executives so accessible.

Not unexpectedly, US Airways employees intend to picket the event. A flyer circulating on employee forums calls on pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and all other labor groups to ready the signage. The pilots, represented by ALPA, have been particularly vocal about their disenchantment (“East” and “West” have been on separate contracts since the 2005 merger of US Airways with America West). Do they have good reason for their gripe? Captains and first officers continue to make less than their counterparts at other US majors and some low-cost carriers such as JetBlue Airways. Check out the latest Airline Pilot Pay snapshot for February from Airline Pilot Pay Central.

At the same time, however, US Airways is facing a first quarter loss. Management also believes that high fuel prices will add about $800 million to the carrier’s expenses this year. That helps to explain why US Airways is trying to drive ancillary revenue by instituting a $25 charge for a second bag, following similar moves by United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Skybus and Spirit Airlines.

It goes without saying, then, that Media Day should be very interesting. Now the only question for me is – should I get some rest in preparation for tomorrow or sharpen my knife?

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