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WAR WITH IRAQ

Airlines Slash Service and Jobs

March 22, 2003|James F. Peltz | Times Staff Writer

The U.S. airline industry took more hits Friday, with UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and Northwest Airlines Corp. slashing more than 8,000 jobs and shaving hundreds of flights and Hawaiian Airlines filing for bankruptcy reorganization.

Nearly all domestic carriers, hobbled by the weak economy and lower sales after the Sept. 11 attacks, are retrenching further as many passengers stay grounded during the Iraq war.

"We saw a drop in future bookings as a result of the threat of war, and we expect this to continue with the onset of war itself," said Greg Taylor, United's senior vice president for planning.

Even so, airline stocks rose Friday as investors bet on a quick end to fighting, which might help reverse the industry's fortunes, analysts said.

United plans to temporarily scrap more than 100 flights starting April 1, and its employee unions said 3,448 flight attendants and mechanics would be furloughed as a result.

The cuts would trim its schedule to 1,574 daily flights.

The airline said it would mostly reduce the frequency of flights on certain routes, maintaining "service to all of the markets the airline currently serves."

United, based in Elk Grove Village, Ill., asked 2,300 flight attendants to take 30-day leaves without pay in April, the Assn. of Flight Attendants said. The union won't know how many of those cuts will come from California until next week, said association spokeswoman Sara Dela Cruz.

But flight attendants in the state probably would be affected because Los Angeles and San Francisco are two of United's biggest hubs. Nearly 3,000 United flight attendants are based in Los Angeles, and nearly 4,000 in San Francisco, the union said.

United also plans for 1,148 mechanics -- all at the airline's maintenance facility in Indianapolis -- to take temporary leave within the coming three weeks, the International Assn. of Machinists union said.

Northwest, based in St. Paul, Minn., said it would cut 4,900 jobs, trim its operations by 12% and remove 20 aircraft from its fleet. It wasn't immediately known how many of those jobs would be in California, but Northwest said "all employee groups will be affected."

United, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and others have said travel -- especially international travel -- dropped dramatically with the arrival of war. American, the world's biggest airline, reduced its international flights by 6% on Thursday.

On Friday, Hawaiian Airlines joined United and US Airways in seeking reorganization under Chapter 11 of U.S. bankruptcy laws. The 73-year-old Hawaiian carrier, which has been struggling for some time, said its flights would continue without interruption.

The airline, which filed its Chapter 11 petition in Honolulu, has about 30 daily flights between the Hawaiian islands and California and other U.S. cities.

Midwest Express Holdings Inc., the Milwaukee-based parent of Midwest Airlines, which serves Los Angeles and San Diego, said this week that it also might file for bankruptcy reorganization.

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