Agony Airlines strikes again. US Airways, known in its early days as Allegheny Airlines — or “Agony Airlines” when flying it was unbearable — is once again biting the hand that fed it.
As part of its merger with American Airlines last month, the combined carrier will be closing more of its operation at Pittsburgh International Airport. The latest loss for the region is the flight operations control center in Moon, which opened a scant five years ago. Shutting the state-of-the-art facility, which had been built to US Airways specifications and with the help of $3.75 million in public grants and tax credits, will mean the shift of 600 jobs to American’s flight center at its headquarters in Dallas-Ft.Worth.
That may look fine on the balance sheet of the world’s largest airline, but to Pittsburgh it means the continued economic pillage of one of the bedrock partners in US Airways’ growth and success — the people of this region. So much for corporate loyalty.
The company first turned against Pittsburgh after going through two bankruptcies after the 9/11 attacks. Although Allegheny County had built the $1 billion airport terminal in 1992 with US Airways’ needs and use in mind, the airline rudely stripped Pittsburgh of its regional hub status in 2004. As a result, hundreds of connecting flights were shifted elsewhere — to Washington, Charlotte and Philadelphia.
In September 2001, US Airways flew 542 non-stops daily from Pittsburgh; today it has an average of 41. Its local payroll of 12,000 workers collapsed to 1,800 in 2013, soon to be 1,200.
It’s a classic tale of mutual attraction, prosperity and betrayal, with the heartbreak writ large in the numbers. The story is a warning to other regions that would invest big public dollars in a joint future with a private company. Pittsburgh should have known better than to fall for an airline named Agony.