Pressured by the prospect of bankruptcy, US Airways Group Inc. proposed last-ditch cost-saving offers to its pilots and flight attendants unions yesterday.
The proposals would require the employees to work longer hours, more in line with those of low-cost carriers, in exchange for less-severe pay cuts.
The offers come as US Airways, which has 28,000 employees, faces a $110 million pension payment Wednesday. Without a last-minute agreement from its unions, the airline may file for bankruptcy protection before the Wednesday deadline to conserve its cash, analysts said.
"In bankruptcy, they could defer that payment," said Ray Neidl, an analyst with Calyon Securities Inc. "It would be up to the judge, who may decide to terminate the program."
US Airways has been meeting with bankruptcy attorneys and advisors for weeks as contract talks with its four unions have stagnated. Airline consultants -- and even Chairman David G. Bronner -- have warned that if the Arlington-based carrier files for bankruptcy protection, it has only a slim chance of emerging.
US Airways has said it needs $800 million in pay and benefit cuts from its workers by the end of the month, as part of its overall $1.5 billion restructuring initiative. Without the cuts, the airline said it would have to file for protection from its creditors for the second time in two years.
The airline's offer asks the pilots to fly about 10 hours more a month, increasing their time in the air to 95 hours from 85 hours. Their average pay would decline about 6.5 percent. The airline had sought a 16 percent to 30 percent pay cut without the additional hours.
US Airways also is asking flight attendants to fly 85 hours a month. Currently, they can choose work schedules of 55, 75, 85 or 105 hours a month.
In his weekly recorded message to employees, US Airways chief executive Bruce R. Lakefield said the new proposals would "keep salaries as close to current" pay as possible by increasing the pilots' and flight attendants' hours.
Lakefield said he received "hundreds" of e-mails from pilots willing to make "sacrifices in pay, work rules and benefits" in support of the carrier's need for reducing costs.
Jack Stephan, the pilots union spokesman, said the pilots' leaders were "discussing" the latest proposal. He added that the new offer looked "very similar" to one US Airways submitted in June, which the union rejected.
David Kamaras, a spokesman for the airline's flight attendants union, said the group would evaluate US Airways' proposal, but he did not say when the proposal would be ready for a vote by its 5,200 members.
This week, talks between US Airways and leaders of the airline's pilots union -- the only group that had agreed to concession talks -- broke down after the leaders from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia refused to take the airline's latest proposal to their members for a vote.
Bill Pollock, chairman of the US Airways chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association, blasted the union leaders for blocking a vote on the airline's proposal.
The airline is seeking about $295 million a year in concessions from its pilots.
US Airways has been unable to secure concession talks with the unions that represent its reservation agents and mechanics.
Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of America, which represents the carrier's 6,000 reservation agents, said the group was sending the airline a new proposal, but she declined to give specifics.
Meanwhile, members of the International Association of Machinists, which represents the mechanics, met with US Airways yesterday for a second round of discussions on the group's money-saving ideas, which it says could cut costs by about $100 million.
Earlier this month, US Airways rejected the union's proposed money-saving ideas, such as a reduction in the outsourcing of mechanics' work and a sharp cut in the number of supervisors, saying they were not enough to help the carrier avoid bankruptcy.
Joseph Tiberi, a spokesman for the union, said the group remained opposed to pay and benefit cuts.