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US Airways Shutdown Threat: Negotiators Face Midnight Deadline

Aired March 24, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Negotiators have just 11 hours now to avert a shutdown at the nation's sixth-largest airline. Flight attendants at US Airways threaten to begin scattered, wildcat walkouts a minute past midnight Eastern time. And management says if that happens, all flights will be canceled.

CNN's Frank Buckley closely follows the story. He joins us now from New York.

Frank, what's happening?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, flights -- US Airways flights continue to operate out of LaGuardia and other airports. But that will stop at one minute past midnight, unless an agreement is reached between US Airways management and the union representing 10,000 flight attendants for US Airways. US Airways shutting down in response to planned job actions by the union. The airline saying it would rather cease flight operations completely than to subject passengers to the uncertainty of disruptions.

The negotiation is faced -- focused on pay with management offering, what it calls, "parity plus one percent," which is an average of what flight attendants make at four other major carriers plus one percent. Flight attendants say that actually amounts to a pay cut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICIA FRIEND, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSN. OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: In 1993, when we negotiated this current contract that we're working under, US Airways was in financial difficulty. And the flight attendants, along with the other employees of US Airways, stepped up to the plate and agreed to cuts in our wages to help our airline survive.

Now, times are good. We've turned the corner. And the US Airways flight attendants want a share in the profits that they have helped to generate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: US Airways has been profitable for the past four years. And that's what flight attendants say is sparking them to ask for a raise, rather than what they see as a pay cut. As for passengers, if there is in fact a shutdown at one minute past midnight, there are some options. US Airways says that it has arranged with other major carriers for US Airways tickets to be accepted. Also Amtrak is making more seats available and will also accept US Airways tickets on Amtrak; a train schedule -- scheduled train service, again, adding seats along the Northeast corridor.

All this, of course, only if the shutdown occurs, which would happen at one minute past midnight -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Frank Buckley in New York.

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