Watch CBSN Live

US Airways Pilots Oppose New York Slot Swap with Delta, Defy Logic

The US Airways Airline Pilots Association (USAPA) has once again proven its unique and impressive ability to handle situations poorly. The latest shenanigans come as the group has decided to oppose the proposed slot swap between Delta (DAL) and US Airways (LCC). In the immortal words of Nell Carter, gimme a break.

The swap of slots at Washington/National and New York/LaGuardia was announced back in August. In short, Delta gives up its National operation and some international route authorities in exchange for the US Airways LaGuardia operation.

I spoke with US Airways SVP of Marketing and Planning Andrew Nocella about the swap back when it was announced, and the rationale for US Airways was quite clear. They have a poorly-performing operation in New York and a profitable operation in Washington. They don't see that situation getting any better for them in New York, and Delta continues to be very hungry to "own" the town. So a mutually beneficial swap was arranged, and everyone should be happy to some degree.

So why the heck is the USAPA against this? Well, it certainly has nothing to do with logic. It seems as if the USAPA simply wants to oppose anything that US Airways management proposes. They offer a three-pointed rationale.

Those conditions raise the prospect of much higher fares and, if history repeats itself, a reduction in service to smaller communities.
Nice try. US Airways announced as part of this deal that they would stop serving 26 markets from LaGuardia. Of those markets, 21 are not served by any other airline from LaGuardia (though most are served from Newark or JFK or both). Delta says it will add or preserve "service to more than 30 small- and medium-sized communities" and that will include many of these markets. So flights will still be there, but Delta will operate the only service instead of US Airways. That shouldn't have a major impact on fares.

There are five of those markets that currently have service from airlines other than US Airways, and they all are served by Delta. Indianapolis, Columbus, and Raleigh/Durham also have service from AirTran (AAI) or American (AMR) so there will still be adequate competition. Only Savannah and Charleston will go from having two airlines to one. Those could see an impact on fares, but we're only talking about two markets here. That can be handled if the DOJ so chooses.

It also places a great burden on many of US Airways' New York-based employees whose jobs will be eliminated
I assume that USAPA is mostly angry about the closing of the New York crew base, but, uh, that's somewhat unrelated. The reality is that the vast majority of the flights that will go away are operated by regional airlines. Wholly-owned regional Piedmont will lose significantly, but mainline US Airways isn't seeing a huge cut. So why are they closing the New York base? The better question is probably - why didn't they close it before?

. . . and will cause financial harm to the New York City and tri-state economy.
Seriously? It's not like nobody is moving in to fill these gaps. This isn't going to harm the economy. Delta will have to pick up the slack to operate all those flights.

In short, this just seems silly. What kind of pilot group opposes something that will actually be beneficial? (Oh, yeah, the ones flying those silver airplanes down in Dallas/Ft Worth, but I digress.) This sort of move only hurts the airline and in no way will help the pilots get what they want (more money, etc). Not a smart move on their part.

View CBS News In