USAir Group Inc. is asking its pilots to allow a low-cost airline service that would help it compete against Southwest Airlines Co. and others, sources said Thursday.
USAir wants the union's approval to create an airline within an airline that would make up 40% of its flying time, said sources who have seen a union briefing document on the subject. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
USAir, the nation's sixth-largest airline, must persuade the union to accept flexible work rules, lower wages and longer hours.
Union and company spokesmen declined to comment.
According to the briefing document, USAir management hopes to operate the low-cost service on all routes of up to 1,000 miles and on some routes as long as 1,600 miles, sources said.
The pilots union reportedly envisions a much smaller version of the service it has dubbed US2. It wants to limit US2's fleet to airplanes the size of 737s, flying routes shorter than 1,000 miles and offering pilots identical benefits to those of their USAir colleagues.
Other airlines, specifically Delta Air Lines and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, have low-cost services more in line with the pilots union's vision, with shorter routes in specific regions that represent much smaller percentages of the respective parent airlines' total flying.
USAir, based in Arlington, Va., must get its costs down in order to compete with Delta, Southwest and other airlines in its traditional territory in the Northeast, airline analyst Raymond Neidl said.
"For USAir, this is a realistic plan," he said. "It's going to be a hard thing to swallow for the pilots, there's no doubt about it. But they must realize that this is probably needed if the company is to survive."
USAir has about 42,000 employees.