December 27, 2004 in Nation/World

Bag ‘meltdown’ begins to thaw

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A Transportation Security Administration worker is surrounded by stacked lost luggage on Sunday at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
(Full-size photo)

PHILADELPHIA – US Airways started delivering luggage to passengers Sunday after suffering what its chief executive called an “operational meltdown,” while Comair put some of its passenger planes back in the air a day after canceling all of its 1,100 flights.

US Airways ran two baggage-only flights from Philadelphia to its hub in Charlotte, N.C., as it continued to pare down its mountain of backed-up luggage, caused by severe weather Thursday and large numbers of baggage handlers, ramp workers and flight attendants calling in sick.

The airline, operating at near-normal levels, canceled 43 of about 1,200 flights systemwide on Sunday, down from 143 on Saturday and 176 on Friday.

In a memo to employees, US Airways chief executive Bruce Lakefield thanked those who had helped “our customers during the operational meltdown we experienced over the weekend.”

However, he criticized those who had exacerbated problems by calling in sick.

Union leaders representing workers in negotiations with the airline over additional pay and benefits concessions denied any organized effort to slow operations.

Meanwhile, Comair ran 110 to 165 flights, or 10 percent to 15 percent of its normal flight schedule, on Sunday, a day after canceling all flights when its computer system was overwhelmed by cancellations and delays caused by a winter storm in the Ohio Valley on Friday night.

Some Comair customers were able to get to their destinations Sunday.

US Airways, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, approved a new contract with reservations and gate agents Thursday that slashed pay 13 percent.

The airline is seeking deals with flight attendants and machinists. It says it needs to cut labor costs drastically to survive beyond mid-January.

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