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Pilots Feeling The Bite

US Airways and its pilots union have reached a tentative agreement on wage and benefit concessions intended to stave off bankruptcy for the air carrier.

That's according to an official of the Air Line Pilots Association, which joins the Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, in agreeing to the givebacks.

US Airways is seeking a loan of $1 billion, but in order to land the loan, must first obtain a nearly equal sum in wage and benefit concessions from workers, suppliers, lenders and creditors.

The airline is asking the federal government to guarantee $900 million of the loan. Last week, the company said some lenders have agreed that they would be willing to come through with the remaining $100 million of the loan package.

The airline has said it will seek bankruptcy protection if it cannot get the loan and the concessions.

Roy Freundlich, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, said negotiators for the union have agreed to $465 million in annual wage and benefit concessions over the next 6 1/2 years.

He says the givebacks total about 85 percent of the concessions that the Arlington, Virginia-based air carrier had sought.

Despite the tentative agreement, the two sides still have some issues to work out.

Two outstanding issues are job security and stock options for pilots to reflect the wage and benefits concessions.

"These are very important issues and they must be resolved for negotiations to successfully be resolved," said Freundlich. "This is part of the whole package."

The union represents 5,900 pilots, 1,100 of whom are on furlough.

David Castelveter, a spokesman for US Airways, declined to discuss specifics of the talks, which has been the air carrier's policy. "We're still in discussions and we're making great progress," said Castelveter. "We hope to have an agreement with our pilots union soon."

Both sides are to resume contract negotiations Tuesday in Washington.

Negotiators for the Association of Flight Attendants have already approved $77 million in annual pay and benefits concessions through 2008. Membership has not voted on the concessions.

While the pilots and flight attendants account for the brunt of the concessions, unions representing aircraft mechanics, communications workers and reservations agents are also being asked for concessions.

Like many other airlines, US Airways has struggled to recapture business lost since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In addition to the loan and employee concessions, US Airways is also seeking other savings and debt extensions from its creditors.

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