Arlington-based US Airways is planning to offer benefits to employees' domestic partners in addition to husbands and wives, the airline said yesterday.

The carrier is the third major airline to announce such a policy within the past two weeks.

United Airlines announced it would extend benefits to domestic partners July 30. American Airlines followed suit on Aug. 5.

"The airlines have been looking at domestic partner benefits for a long time," said Kim Mills, education director for the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest gay and lesbian political organization.

"We will be providing benefits to domestic partners of employees consistent with the company's overall philosophy of maintaining parity," US Airways said in a memo to employees. The memo said Michelle Bryan, senior vice president of human resources, would meet with labor leaders and representatives of nonunion employee groups to discuss details.

Mills said about 2,800 U.S. employers extend benefits to domestic partners.

Chicago-based United, the nation's largest airline, had been ordered by a federal judge in San Francisco to provide "soft benefits" such as travel privileges, bereavement leave and medical leave to both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners in San Francisco. Hours after an appeals court upheld that ruling, United announced it would offer all benefits to domestic partners of employees and retirees nationwide.