DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN USAir and its pilots could lead the way towards the creation of a low-cost service designed to counter operations such as those of the newly created Delta Express, Southwest and ValuJet.

Successful negotiations between management and members of the Air Line Pilots Association over the start-up of a lower-wage operation on the eastern seaboard of the USA would be followed by similar bartering between USAir and unions representing mechanics, ground-crew and flight attendants.

USAir first broached the subject with the pilots in August and, a month later, formal talks were approved with USAir management on the issue. A deal would be contingent upon a new contract.

The airline, which returned to profitability in 1995 after years of serious losses, will not discuss what is under negotiation, but admits that USAir "-has a cost issue that must be dealt with".

Stephen Wolf, USAir's chairman, says that the airline needs to simplify its fleet mix and to slash labour costs. He says that growth will be difficult to accomplish under current circumstances and that productivity gains are required, if USAir is to survive.

Source: Flight International