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Pilots protest pay disparities

The US Airways employees cited management's higher compensation, but no raises for workers.

A day after US Airways reported a $66 million first-quarter profit, more than 100 of its pilots protested pay discrepancies that they said included lucrative bonuses for management but no raises for workers.

The uniformed members of the Air Line Pilots Association took turns over two hours standing silently at attention in three lines on the sidewalk in front of the US Airways Terminal A-West international ticket counter at Philadelphia International Airport.

Two dozen other pilots walked an informational picket line, marching in a long rectangular formation nearby.

"These guys are here on their day off," said Jack Stephan, chairman of the airline's union chapter. "That's how absolutely indignant they are."

US Airways has 60 percent of the traffic at the airport here.

US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder said the company had no comment about the protest, one of six scheduled yesterday at airports where US Airways has a large presence.

The pilots are particularly angry that US Airways chief executive officer Doug Parker cashed in stock options last year - some of them given to him a decade ago when he was running America West Airlines - that were worth more than $9 million, Stephan said. Two weeks ago, Parker told employees in a letter that he received $5.4 million in salary, bonuses, and new stock options in 2006.

The pilots, who gave up $2.1 billion in future pay and benefits during two US Airways trips through bankruptcy reorganization in 2003 and 2005, are seeking higher pay in a new contract that would allow the workforces at US Airways and America West to be merged.

The groups have been operating separately, flying only airplanes that were part of each carrier's fleets before their parent companies combined in September 2005.

US Airways president Scott Kirby said Thursday that there was a "relatively large gap" between what the company is willing to pay and what the pilots are seeking.

The pilots see the $507 million operating profit of the Tempe, Ariz., airline in 2006, and the $2.1 billion in past concessions, "and think that now is the time to get all of that back," he said. "Obviously, giving all of that back is an unobtainable goal."

In March, all US Airways workers shared $59 million in bonuses, 10 percent of the 2006 pretax profit.

Stephan, the union leader, said Parker's 2006 compensation "was achieved on the backs of the pilots. At the same time, US Airways ranks near the top in consumer complaints."

Pilots and other employees are demoralized and fatigued because the airline does not have enough people to provide good service to customers, he said.

"We're embarrassed by the product we're offering to the people of Philadelphia and all of our passengers throughout the system," Stephan said.