US Airways will ask the bankruptcy court to impose a 23 percent pay cut for most of its 28,000 employees if the unions fail to agree to the carrier's earlier proposals by today, several union officials said yesterday.

Labor leaders were busy yesterday consulting with attorneys but expressed doubt about meeting the airline's deadline. On Wednesday, US Airways gave the labor unions two days to agree to consensual pay cuts or it would seek action from the bankruptcy court.

The 23 percent wage reduction would exceed the airline's proposed 19.5 percent cut for the pilots, which the Arlington-based carrier put forward Monday. That figure was an increase from 16.5 percent and came with a reduction in vacation time and cuts in retiree health care and pilot furloughs, regardless of seniority, if the airline reduces its fleet.

Pilot spokesman Jack Stephan said the pilots plan to oppose US Airways' request in court but would meet with the airline through the weekend.

US Airways' motion would require an emergency hearing scheduled by the court. If the judge approves the request, the terms would be only short-term and the airline and unions eventually would have to agree on a new long-term contract.

Dave Kamaras, a spokesman for the airline's flight attendants, called US Airways' latest pay cut request "excessive and inequitable." He said the group planned to continue meeting with US Airways executives until the next bankruptcy hearing.

Randy Canale, District 141 president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents the airline's mechanics, said union leaders have requested additional information from the airline to "independently assess the company's need for such drastic contract modification."

One group excluded from the 23 percent pay cut would be the airline's 150 flight dispatchers, who are represented by the Transport Workers Union. The group's leaders reached a tentative agreement Tuesday to cut $4.5 million, or about 10 percent, in pay and benefits. The members are scheduled to vote on the proposal Sept. 30.

Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Communication Workers of America, which represents the airline's telephone and airport reservation agents, said the airline's latest request was less than the 30 percent the airline originally sought. Johnson said the union's leaders continued to review the airline's request.

US Airways officials declined to comment on its latest proposal.

US Airways is on a fast-track timetable for its pay cuts, saying it has to reduce costs drastically by January or face a difficult time emerging from bankruptcy. The airline sought bankruptcy protection two weeks ago for the second time in two years after workers resisted its bid for $800 million in annual wage and benefit concessions.

Employees granted the airline two sets of cuts, worth $1.2 billion a year, during its previous bankruptcy. US Airways emerged in 2003 after seven months under court protection, only to be hit by stiff competition from low-fare airlines and by higher fuel prices.

US Airways pilots will oppose the airline's request in bankruptcy court, but intend to continue discussions through the weekend, a spokesman for the group said.