US AirwaysSeptember 10th 2001 was just like any other day in Washington DC. Ho, hum. US Airways was similarly bored to the point of distraction; distraction mirrored by the rest of the airline community at Washington-Regan Airport; distraction which would soon alter the landscape of our nation, forever. US Airways would feel the ripple effects of these attacks for once and after that for many years to come.
US Airways is the largest carrier at Washington-Reagan, airport in Washington DC, so they were, no doubt, disproportionately impacted by that airport's extended closure after the September 11 terrorist attacks. What happened next was predictable; no one flew, US Airways MetroJet network was taken offline, thousands of employees were laid off and the airline entered Chapter 11 in August 2002. Quick thinking federal officials offered the company a government-guaranteed loan through the ATSB and US Airways was able to exit bankruptcy after a relatively short period
However, the damage was done. The public’s consciousness was scarred; people were scared. Early in 2003, US Airways management liquidated the pensions of its 6,000 pilots, sending their pensions to the federal pension program, PBGC. US Airways was the first of the major airlines to drop pilots' pensions to save money; other airlines have sadly followed suit.
Everyone was flailing; trying to find a formula that worked to save money, to save their families, to save themselves. An initial trial of selling in-flight food in 2003 did not work. Subsequently, US Airways discontinued free meal service on domestic flights. Bistro sandwiches and salads are now available for purchase on board most flights of over 700 miles.
Several other attempts at quick fixes including charter service between Florida and Hollywood were unsuccessful. Time and the rising tide of debts came creeping on US Airways. High fuel costs and deadlocked negotiations with organized labor, forced US Airways into a second round of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection proceedings, on September 12, 2004. Widespread employee malaise and irregularly high sick calls were blamed by the airline for a staff shortage around the 2004 Christmas holiday, a PR disaster which led to speculation that the airline could be liquidated.