Pittsburgh fliers cash in their miles



Frequent fliers don't want to be left with nothing if US Airways stops flying.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Doubts about the future of US Airways have prompted some of its frequent fliers in Pittsburgh to cash in their miles and book flights with other carriers, according to customers and travel agents.
Travel agents in Pittsburgh say they've seen dozens of customers dumping their frequent-flier miles and choosing other carriers to avoid being left with nothing if a recent round of cost-cutting by the Arlington, Va.-based airline doesn't keep it flying.
Among the frequent fliers apparently fleeing US Airways -- the nation's seventh-largest air carrier -- was Lisa Fischetti, a principal in the Pittsburgh public relations firm Veritaspr. She redeemed about 120,000 points for two round-trip tickets to Europe and two to Aruba.
"I didn't want to save and save and end up with nothing," Fischetti told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in a story published in Sunday's editions.
Others appear to be boycotting the airline, which controls 80 percent of all traffic out of Pittsburgh, for demoting Pittsburgh International Airport from a hub to a so-called "focus city."
"A lot of people really don't like what US Airways is doing to Pittsburgh and the way its treating its employees," said Victoria Sammartino, an executive with Ponzio-Gordon Travel and president of the local chapter of the American Society of Travel Agents.
Looking to cut costs
Fighting a return to bankruptcy, US Airways wants to cut costs by $1.5 billion a year, of which $800 million would come from concessions by labor groups. The company has said it wants to have new labor deals ratified by the end of September, when it could be found in default for a $900 million loan from the Air Transportation Stabilization Board.
This fall, US Airways plans to offer fewer flights to fewer destinations from Pittsburgh International Airport. The airline's proposed schedule would cut service to about 240 departures to 65 destinations, down from 370 flights to 102 destinations.
Flight data in Pittsburgh seems to indicate that fliers are fleeing.
According to passenger statistics for April, the most recent month available, total traffic at Pittsburgh was up 6.5 percent from a year earlier with low-cost carriers accounting for most of the gain. While US Airways' travel was up 2.8 percent, traffic for all other carriers increased by 22 percent.
Despite lagging behind other airlines, US Airways still flew more passengers than all other airlines combined from Pittsburgh.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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