Carrier attempts to save $400 million a year by renegotiating commitments

US Airways has slashed its fleet by 31 aircraft and is trying to reduce lease or financing terms on about half of its remaining 280 aircraft.

The carrier is free to reject 119 mainline aircraft as part of its restructuring to avoid bankruptcy and so far has notified the court it has returned 23. Eight more aircraft need to go back to meet its revised fleet plan as it strives to achieve annual savings of at least $400 million by renegotiating commitments on 88 of the 119 aircraft it has the right to return.

US Airways plans to ask the court on 12 December to approve new lease and financing deals. Earlier this month, it secured court approval to retain commitments on 129 mainline aircraft, saying they already reflected market rates.

All but two of these are relatively new Airbuses which have been spared from the carrier's restructuring. Aircraft already returned include 16 Boeing 737-300s and seven 737-400s, and the eight still to be returned are expected to be 737s or Boeing 757s.

US Airways is trying to lower payments on its remaining 737-300/400s, 757-200s and 767-200ERs. It has warned lessors it will return aircraft if they do not agree to match market rates. The airline has threatened to temporarily shrink its fleet below 280 aircraft and get back to this figure by lining up new deals with lessors offering aircraft at lower rates.

The 280-strong fleet, which includes 21 back-up aircraft, supports US Airways' new schedule of 1,350 daily frequencies. It plans to shrink this to 1,250 flights in January, but insists the reductions are temporary and will be achieved by cutting unprofitable off-peak flights rather than more aircraft.

But the carrier's pilots union fears US Airways will cut its mainline fleet to 245 aircraft, the minimum allowed under its contract.

US Airways' three regional subsidiaries are also shedding aircraft and have cut 100 turboprop flights. So far, only four Bombardier Dash 8s have been returned, giving the carriers a combined fleet of 108 Dash 8s and 30 Fairchild Dornier 328 turboprops. But the carriers are free to return a further 36 Dash 8s and are also trying to renegotiate lease deals. US Airways has a further 64 turboprops and 70 regional jets in its network which are operated by five independent partners.

The carrier has also secured the right to return or abandon its fleets of Boeing 737-200s, MD-80s and Fokker 100s.

Source: Flight International