- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 19, 2005

US Airways passengers last night flying out of Washington were surprised but relieved to learn that the Arlington airline would merge with America West Holdings Corp.

“I think it’s great,” said physician Bruce Thomas of Sterling, Va.

“It’s a good idea for the airline companies to create an environment where they are financially secure and can be competitive” with low-fare rivals such as Southwest Airlines Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp., said Dr. Thomas, who was flying out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

US Airways and America West announced yesterday they would merge with $1.5 billion in financing from investors, vendors and others to create a nationwide low-fare carrier.

US Airways needed the funding to exit bankruptcy protection and America West didn’t have enough cash to acquire US Airways on its own.

Indianapolis resident Peg Smith said the US Airways bankruptcy had made her a “nervous” flier of the airline. “I’ve been satisfied with the service, but it was always in the back of my mind that it could slump,” said Ms. Smith, who was flying home from a Washington business trip.

Arlington resident David Sieradzki, a US Airways’ Gold Member frequent flier, said he was happy about the prospect of staying with the airline as a business traveler.

“I feel that I’ve invested in this airline, in terms of how often I use it to fly,” said Mr. Sieradzki, who flies the airline’s shuttle at least once a month to New York.

As a longtime business traveler, Mr. Sieradzki said he was too acclimated with US Airways’ rules and programs to change.

“But I had been worried lately about what would happen,” he said last night before heading to Orlando, Fla.

But airline workers were more apprehensive of the deal, which will move the company’s headquarters to Tempe, Ariz. “Is it a done deal? I’ve been watching the news all day,” said a ticket clerk at the gate-level check-in counter around 6:30 p.m. yesterday, about an hour after the airlines announced the merger.

The US Airways employee would not say whether he was worried about his job. He said further questions would have to be asked of corporate headquarters in Arlington.

“We’ve been through so much in the past few years that we just hope for the best,” said the ticket clerk, who would not give his name.

Other US Airways employees would not discuss the deal, referring questions to corporate headquarters.

Regular US Airways passenger Heather Johnston Nicholson said she was encouraged by the news but still cautious. “It’s a good move, but I’ll still wait six months to a year before I join their travel club again,” said Ms. Nicholson, who was heading to Indianapolis.

Kansas City, Mo., resident Deborah Craig, who was flying out of Reagan Airport yesterday to Indianapolis as well, said she wasn’t worried about the company’s future.

“I’ve had flights fall through from airlines going bankrupt, but I just forgot to worry about it” with US Airways, she said.

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