Airbus Industrie has withdrawn all of USAir's 1998 and 1999 firm delivery positions, as well as support for a planned aircraft lease, because the US air carrier "-has not demonstrated that it will be able to affirm its Airbus aircraft purchase".

USAir has told its employees that it "-remains hopeful it can affirm its contract with Airbus to facilitate our becoming the carrier of choice."

In November, USAir said it was planning a $12 billion, 400-aircraft deal with the European consortium, including firm orders for 120 A319s, A320s and A321s, plus an additional 120 orders to be reconfirmed at a later date, and 160 options (Flight International 13-19 November 1996).

Twelve aircraft leased from third parties were scheduled for delivery in 1998, with 22, 29 and 37 new production aircraft set to arrive in 1998, 1999 and 2000 respectively. Thereafter, 48 aircraft would be delivered annually until the order was completed around 2004. The list price for the entire order would top $12 billion.

The deal was, however, dependent on USAir achieving "a competitive cost structure", and on the airline's ability to win extra concessions from pilots, flight attendants and mechanics, which amounts to some $2.5 billion over five years.

Airbus says that it has reclaimed the delivery positions because USAir has not signed a firm contract for the aircraft and cannot do so until the labour concessions are in place. "We are in a high peak-buying period [and] must respond. We are in a difficult position, but must provide aircraft to customers," says Airbus.

The Airbus decision comes as USAir and the Air Line Pilots Association negotiate concessions which would allow for creation of a low-cost airline operation.

USAir management will not comment on the talks, except to say that the airline and the pilots' union ALPA "-must take steps to meet competitive threats-We've had productive discussions with ALPA, but there is much to do".

Source: Flight International