US Airways to upgrade express fleet, brings jobs back to the USA & asks Airbus for A321 ETOPS

Yesterday, The Cranky Flier and Henry Harteveldt tweeted updates throughout the day from a US Airways Media Day event in Phoenix. One of the larger announcements was that the carrier will be investing $35 million to upgrade their largest Express jets (Embraer 170/175s & Bombardier CRJ-700/900s) to include first class.

Whereas the other major carriers in the U.S. already had, or have just recently added first class to most of their regional aircraft, US Airways is claiming their move now is driven by the desire to sell upgrades at the gate versus needing to maintain a competitive product with other carriers. Still, though, this should be welcome news to the elite ranks, and gives US Airways a bit more credibility in my book. Their recent upgrade to long-haul aircraft also makes the carrier an attractive option for premium traffic.

Separately, the carrier reported yesterday that they are adding jobs in at least one domestic call center, and all sales & customer service calls originating in the U.S. will be handled by one of their three centers in Winston-Salem, Reno, and Phoenix. Without saying they’re bringing ALL call center functions back to the U.S., it is at least welcome news that when you need to call to make or change a reservation, you’ll get someone here in the United States.

Finally, US Airways has asked Airbus to look into offering Extended Operation (ETOPS) capabilities for the Airbus A321neo (new engine option). The carrier currently operates 51 of the standard-engined A321, and seeks interest in operating the aircraft on transatlantic flights, as well as to Hawaii. Derek Kerr, US Airways CEO, said they’ve been looking for 757s, but “there’s not a lot out there” as FedEx has “gobbled them up.” US Airways, however, does have a vested interest with Airbus since Stephen Wolf’s realm as CEO in the 1990s, and it might make more sense from a maintenance and fleet consistency perspective to pursue ETOPS with Airbus.

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