- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

CHICAGO, Jan. 6 (UPI) — Passengers flying first-class or business class on bankrupt United Airlines may think about brown-bagging it if they don't like munching on airline snacks.

However, the move toward no-frills flights means bargain fares for consumers.

United on Monday cut unrestricted business fares from its hubs in Chicago and Denver as much as 40 percent, offering one-way, walk-up fares of $359 from Chicago to New York City or $527 between Denver and Washington.

For 7-day advance purchases, the savings can reach up to 70 percent. The price of a Chicago-New York ticket drops to $199 each way, and for Denver-Washington, $279.

"United has been listening to our customers and testing variations of this new fare concept for more than a year in numerous Chicago and Denver markets," said Chris Bowers, senior vice president of sales and reservations.

Effective Tuesday, United is cutting back food service on many non-primetime North American flights as it lays off 1,700 more employees and closes its remaining 32 reservations offices.

Those steak dinners on fine china and wine in real glasses will be a thing of the past for first-class passengers on flights of two to three hours in the United States and Canada that depart after normal breakfast, lunch or dinner times.

Travelers on domestic and Canadian routes, except coast-to-coast flights, will get salads or deli plates instead of lunch and dinner; coach passengers on flights between Hawaii and the West Coast will no longer be served a sandwich; and coach passengers on flights of 2 to 3 1/2 hours will on longer get a hot breakfast sandwich.

United has been desperately trying to cut costs since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Dec. 9. The nation's second-largest airline has projected a $3.2 billion operating loss for 2002, and late Friday it announced it would fire 1,500 salaried and management workers, and lay off 188 ticket agents — about 2 percent of its workforce — Jan. 28.

United has until Feb. 15 to cut payroll expenses by $2.4 billion a year through 2008 to meet strict terms of lenders providing $1.5 billion in debtor-in-possession financing.

A federal bankruptcy judge Friday will issue a ruling on whether United can impose wage settlements on its unionized workers under Section 1113(c) of the U.S. bankruptcy code.

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