The committee representing some of United Airlines' largest creditors suggested that the carrier consider eliminating Dulles International Airport as a hub to cut costs, a United executive said yesterday during a bankruptcy hearing.
In court testimony in Chicago, Greg Taylor, United's senior vice president of planning, acknowledged that the airline had been advised to consider closing "certain" hubs, including Dulles, during its bankruptcy reorganization.
United spokeswoman Chris Nardella said later that although the airline has to "take into consideration" some of the creditors committee's suggestions, the carrier currently has "no intentions of closing any of its hubs."
United "continues to explore various restructuring alternatives," she said. "We want to maintain and emerge with all five domestic hubs."
Eliminating a hub would reduce the number of flights and employees at an airport but not all operations.
United, the world's second-largest airline, uses Dulles to funnel connecting flights on the East Coast and abroad. The airline, a unit of UAL Corp., also has hubs at San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago, where it is based.
Aviation analysts have said that Dulles, the smallest of the hubs based on the number of flights, was also one of the weakest. It could see the biggest drop in passenger traffic if the United States goes to war with Iraq, they said.
Yesterday's hearing focused on the future of the Chicago-based carrier and Dulles-based Atlantic Coast Airlines, which is United's largest regional jet operator. During its reorganization, United could drop or maintain its current affiliation contract with Atlantic Coast. But under bankruptcy law, United does not have to make a decision for months into its 16-month planned reorganization.
Atlantic Coast asked U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Eugene R. Wedoff to force United to make a decision sooner than that. Wedoff did not rule on Atlantic's request yesterday, instead giving United additional time to gather information.
United lost more than $3.21 billion last year and is struggling to restructure and emerge from bankruptcy court protection by summer. The carrier has been seeking to reduce labor and aircraft costs and to develop a plan for a separate low-cost airline unit.
Also yesterday, United named Sean Donohue, a former senior vice president of its North America sales operations, as vice president of its low-cost airline. United's low-cost operation has been opposed by several of the airline's labor groups, including its pilots union.