US Airways and its pilots union are close to reaching a $300 million cost-cutting agreement, a key part of a restructuring plan that the airline says it needs to help it emerge from bankruptcy.
The two sides have held continuous meetings this week at the airline's major hub cities in Pittsburgh and Charlotte.
"I'm optimistic we can get this done. There are very few things left to resolve," said Bill Pollock, chairman of the airline's pilots union.
The contract would reduce pilots' pay by at least 17.5 percent and cut the amount of the airline's payments into the pilots' pension plan. The union is trying to eliminate a US Airways proposal to permit the furlough of pilots regardless of seniority.
The pilots and the airline had come close to an agreement over the Labor Day weekend, but talks broke down, precipitating the carrier's second bankruptcy filing the following week.
The pilots' leaders hope to have an agreement before the Arlington airline goes to court Thursday to ask U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stephen S. Mitchell to impose a temporary pay cut. US Airways is seeking a court-ordered pay cut of 23 percent for all unions that have not already reached agreements as part of the airline's effort to cut $950 million.
Jack Stephan, spokesman for the pilots, said a desire to avoid the temporary 23 percent pay cut is motivating the discussions.
"The momentum is there for us to get a deal," he said.
Still, Stephan remained cautious. "It's not uncommon to get right at the end and somebody throws a surprise at you. That clearly can happen," he said.
If leaders agree on a new contract, members would then have to vote on it and the bankruptcy court would have to approve it.
Late Wednesday, US Airways reached a tentative cost-cutting pact with its 25 flight simulator engineers, the third small work group represented by the Transport Workers of Union Local 546 to reach an agreement. Details were not released.
Last night, the airline's 150 flight dispatchers approved their $4.5 million cost-cutting contract. The airline has already reached tentative agreements with its 65 flight-crew training instructors.
US Airways, which employs about 28,000 workers, still has not reached agreements with the larger unions that represent its flight attendants, mechanics and reservation agents.